June 9, 2016

It's been a long election, and after more than a year of non-stop campaign coverage, it's hard to come up with new things to say about the minutiae of the 2016 race. At least, that seems to be the dilemma at CNN, which, while trying to cover the anticipated meeting Thursday between Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Obama at the White House, resorted to analyzing body language as the two walked down the famed colonnade:

The audio in the clip was minimal, so other than sparse laughter by the two men, not much was available for dissection ahead of the actual meeting. But dissect we must, and so CNN anchors John Berman and Kate Bolduan resorted to discussing the back-slapping between the president and the senator and whether it was mutual. "I have to say, just dissecting that walk can be fascinating," Berman said. "I saw at least one backslap from the senator to the president." Bolduan was quick to clarify that there was also a backslap from the president to the senator.

Of course, there is some analysis to be done regarding the optics of the whole thing — but backslaps? Five more months til Election Day, everyone. Kimberly Alters

11:21 a.m.

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in the U.S., overwhelming hospitals and bringing state-wide reopening plans to a halt, many might be wondering where the next hotspots will be. Unfortunately, that's somewhat hard to predict, as "the infection curve rose in 40 of the 50 states heading into the July Fourth holiday weekend," The Associated Press reports. But we can make some educated guesses.

The states with the most severe outbreaks at present are Arizona, Florida, Texas, and California, which "reported a combined 25,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday," AP says. But Georgia "is among the most worrying states right now," says Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic. Over the last week, the Peach State reported more than 14,800 new cases, and this can't be chalked up to more testing: "At the beginning of June, about one in 14 tests came back positive. Last week, about one in nine tests did; today, one in seven tests did," Meyer says.

Another state to watch is Ohio, "which saw new cases rise much faster than tests this week," Meyer reports. The percentage of positive tests has also doubled in Kansas, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Carolina. "In Nevada, it has tripled. In Idaho, it is five times higher," according to AP.

Meanwhile, the Northeast, which was the early epicenter for the virus, has seen new infections drop significantly. Of the states seeing a downward trend in infections, only two — Nebraska and South Dakota — are outside the Northeast. "What seems to unite many of the most affected states is that they reopened indoor dining, bars, and gyms," Meyer says. "What will distinguish them is how they react now." Jessica Hullinger

10:27 a.m.

Tucker Carlson for president? It's not inconceivable.

According to Politico, a number of Republican Party insiders are hoping the Fox News host will "parlay his TV perch into a run for president in 2024," believing he could be the next-generation leader of Trumpism. It's undeniable that Carlson has a massive platform from which he could make his pitch. As Politico reports, Tucker Carlson Tonight is the most watched cable news program in history, and Luke Thompson, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush's super PAC in 2016, told Politico this would make him a "formidable" candidate. But if he were to become the nominee, a "debate over the future of the party" would erupt, Politico says, about "whether Trump was an aberration or a party-realigning disrupter — a fight that will be all the fiercer if Trump loses in November."

Carlson's high ratings come alongside an advertiser exodus following his on-air claim that the Black Lives Matter movement "is definitely not about Black lives. Remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will." His ability to repeatedly withstand a barrage of backlash seems to be one of his selling points for the Republican base. "What he's been saying speaks for a lot of people, and it's basically not expressed or serviced by most Republican politicians," Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, told Politico. "There's a lot to be said for being fearless, and he is, while Republican politicians, as a breed, are not."

The question, though, is: Would Carlson run? According to one former top political aide to Trump, Carlson is "disgusted" with politicians, so he probably won't be interested in becoming one. He also has zero political experience under his belt, but as Lowry notes: "Political experience matters less than it once did."

Read more at Politico. Jessica Hullinger

8:13 a.m.

As President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence continue to host events in areas hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, the Secret Service agents assigned to look after them are starting to fear for their own health and safety, The Washington Post reports.

"The heightened risk of agents getting sick" while preparing for rallies in states like Arizona and Oklahoma "has begun to frazzle agents and their families," the Post reports, citing people close to agents. Their worries aren't unfounded: The Post says Pence was forced to duck out of a "Faith in America" campaign rally scheduled for Tuesday in Arizona after some of his Secret Service agents displayed coronavirus symptoms and at least one tested positive. Pence postponed his visit until Wednesday so that new, healthy agents could be brought in.

This is the second time recently that Secret Service agents have contracted the virus while prepping for an event for the administration. Two agents tested positive before Trump's controversial rally in Tulsa on June 20, and at least eight campaign staff members who helped plan the event have also tested positive. Catherine Milhoan, the director of communications for the Secret Service, told The New York Times that "the health and safety of our work force, their families, and that of our protectees remains the agency's highest priority." Jessica Hullinger

7:30 a.m.

President Trump will start the three-day Independence Day weekend at Mount Rushmore, where 7,500 people are expected to attend a fireworks display Friday, The Associated Press reports. South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem (R), a Trump ally, said masks will be optional at the event, and social distancing won't be required. That prompted objections from local officials, including the Republican mayor of nearby Rapid City, Steve Allender.

Leaders of several Native American tribes in the region also warned the event could result in a coronavirus spike among their members. "The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites," said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

In many states, leaders are encouraging residents to limit their July 4 celebrations to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. Harold Maass

5:50 a.m.

The United States hit another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, recording 55,220 new daily cases, according to The Washington Post. Georgia and Florida both set single-day records — Georgia reported 3,472 new daily cases, while Florida recorded a staggering 10,109 cases Thursday, up more than 3,500 from Wednesday's record-breaking total. "It's the 25th consecutive day that Florida has set a record high in its seven-day rolling average," the Post says.

Texas reported nearly 8,000 new cases Thursday, and in Houston, hospitals are being forced to transfer patients to facilities in other parts of the state as intensive care units near capacity due to the surge in COVID-19 patients. "We're running out of ICU beds," Harris Health Systems spokesman Bryan McLeod told ABC News. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) mandated everyone in the state wear masks in public to help slow the spread of the virus.

There have been more than 11 million coronavirus cases worldwide, with 521,000 global deaths. While cases continue to skyrocket in the U.S., there hasn't been a corresponding surge in the death toll. However, a study published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine said the true COVID-19 death toll may be significantly higher than what's being reported. Jessica Hullinger

July 2, 2020

Poll after poll has shown former Vice President Joe Biden with a growing lead over President Trump, and with COVID-19 cases surging again, the president's approval level is sinking as well. It's all leading Trump to claim "the polls are all fake" and, when he does believe them, beg for advice to turn it all around, Vanity Fair reports.

In recent days, Trump has appeared "down in the dumps," Republicans who have spoken with him tell Vanity Fair. "People around him think his heart's not in it," one Republican close to the White House said of his campaign. Trump is reportedly stuck between appealing to his base and suburban voters, leading him to even call Fox News' Tucker Carlson last week and beg "What do I do? What do I do?"

In other instances, Trump has appeared in denial of his sputtering campaign and claimed "the polls are all fake," a Republican in touch with Trump tells Vanity Fair. But at other times he reportedly believes the polls — and blames them on his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. But the reported blame games haven't stopped the bad news from pouring in, namely when it comes to the resumption of campaign rallies where Trump usually thrives. With coronavirus spreading throughout Florida and a mandatory mask policy now in place in Jacksonville, the Trump campaign is reportedly ready to cancel his 15,000-person rally at the Republican National Convention next month "so that Trump doesn’t suffer another Tulsa–like humiliation," Vanity Fair writes.

Read more about Trump's growing campaign woes at Vanity Fair. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 2, 2020

Hugh Downs, the beloved TV broadcaster who hosted Today and 20/20, has died at 99.

Downs died on Wednesday at his Arizona home, his family confirmed in a statement, The New York Times reports. His great-niece said he died of natural causes, per The Associated Press.

Over the course of his TV career, Downs spent more than 10,000 hours on the air, and he once held the record for the person with the most hours on network television until he was surpassed by Regis Philbin, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Downs hosted Today for nine years beginning in 1962, as well as 20/20 for more than 20 years. He additionally hosted the game show Concentration and was announcer for Jack Paar on The Tonight Show. He retired in 1999.

"Along with his late wife Ruth, he bridged generations with his erudite, compassionate, smart broadcasts," tweeted Geraldo Rivera, adding that Downs was "a great American." Paley Center curator Ron Simon told The Washington Post Downs "represented the entire history of broadcasting," as "whatever the format, he was that consummate, quintessential broadcaster who could adapt his style to what was needed." Brendan Morrow

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