June 27, 2020

It's no secret the polls have not been kind to President Trump lately. If the majority of them hold true, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, stands a strong chance of defeating Trump in November's general elections. But experts and Democtats are continually warning that polls, especially at this early stage, don't tell the story.

Bill Kristol, a neoconservative and Trump critic who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, told The Guardian in an interview that "it's conceivable that the reluctant Trump voter from 2016 who's become a reluctant Biden voter in 2020 goes back to being a reluctant Trump voter" by the time the election rolls around. He thinks that could happen if Trump and his campaign implement tactics like suppressing minority voting, "colluding" with foreign governments, or spreading allegations of corruption against Biden and his son Hunter. "The special circumstances with Trump are his total abandonment of any constraints and even more important, perhaps, his having people around him who've abandoned any constraints on the way in which they'll use the federal government, the executive branch, to say things, do things, pretend to do things," he said.

Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, added that he could also envision Trump bringing a surge of voters back around by announcing "without any basis at all" that a coronavirus vaccine has been found shortly before the election and then "pressure" the Food and Drug Administration "to approve it." Read more about how Kristol, Tribe, and other experts think Trump could reverse the polling tide at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

10:42 a.m.

President Trump on Thursday said he's against the United States Postal Service funding Democrats are seeking while noting that without it, "you can't have universal mail-in voting."

Trump in an interview on Fox Business said that while Democrats are asking for about $3.5 billion in funding for mail-in voting and $25 billion for the USPS as part of the stimulus bill that's being negotiated in Congress, "they aren't getting there," and "if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped to have it."

Trump previously made similar comments on Wednesday, per The Washington Post, saying that "they don't have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can't do it, I guess." He has repeatedly claimed without evidence that widespread mail-in voting amid the pandemic would result in a "corrupt election," despite approving of the use of absentee ballots, which are effectively the same thing, and claiming that mail-in voting is fine specifically in Florida.

The president's suggestion that he will reject a stimulus bill with USPS funding in it only further complicates the talks given that this is crucial for Democrats, Politico's Jake Sherman notes. And by describing how universal mail-in voting wouldn't be possible without the funding he's against, The Washington Post's Aaron Blake wrote that Trump appeared to casually reveal his "true motive in blocking" it. Indeed, Axios' Jonathan Swan said that he's been trying to "get to the bottom of the strategy" with the Post Office, but here Trump "just says it out loud." Brendan Morrow

9:56 a.m.

The American economy is on the mend — at least through a pandemic-tinted lens.

New unemployment claims finally dipped below 1 million for the first time since March in the past week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Still, the total of 963,000 new claims is well more than the pre-pandemic record of 695,000, and shows that layoffs are still happening even as the Trump administration touts an economic recovery.

Unemployment claims first jacked up at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March, hitting a peak of nearly 7 million. They've dropped significantly since then, but recovery recently slowed as unemployment claims lingered over 1 million for weeks on end. A total of 15.5 million people are still receiving unemployment benefits, per the Labor Department's numbers. That's well above the pre-pandemic record of 6.6 million, The Wall Street Journal notes.

Unemployed Americans were receiving an extra $600/week boost to the their unemployment benefits until the federal government's coronavirus stimulus package expired at the end of July. Democrats, Republicans, and the White House have failed to agree on a way to continue the boost — and some unemployed Americans say they haven't gotten any benefits yet at all due to filing backlogs. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:41 a.m.

Officials are warning that the worst of the coronavirus is definitely not over.

"The fall could be incredibly gruesome," Yale School of Medicine epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves told Politico on Thursday. COVID-19 is still spreading rapidly, and coupled with colder weather that will push people indoors and coincide with flu season, it could make for an entirely new round of brutal months.

Gonsalves said he didn't understand why the Trump administration didn't take advantage of the summer months to tamp down on swirling outbreaks. Squandering this key period means the country is in no better shape than it was a few months ago when the initial spike slowly began to flatten. "Somebody's going to have to explain it to me, 10 years from now, why they would make all these bad choices," Gonsalves said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, meanwhile, says "this could be the worst fall from a public health perspective we've ever had." He urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance.

On Wednesday, the U.S. reported 1,493 coronavirus deaths, the highest single-day total since mid-May. Despite the increasingly grim outlook, Politico reports the Trump administration is feeling good. "Aides are increasingly assured about their response — feeling like they're finally getting a handle on how to fight the disease," the report reads. But one anonymous senior Republican said "I don't feel like they kind of know what 'under control' would look like." Summer Meza

9:19 a.m.

AMC Theatres hopes to bring consumers back to the movies amid the COVID-19 pandemic by giving tickets away almost for free — at least for a day.

The theater chain has announced it will begin reopening its U.S. locations, which closed nationwide in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, on Aug. 20. And on that first day back open, it will sell tickets for just 15 cents. The company framed this as its way of celebrating the 100-year anniversary of its founding by offering 1920 prices, although it's clearly also an effort to entice moviegoers to return to theaters that have been shuttered for months. Following this 15 cent promotion, AMC will sell tickets to classic movies like Back to the Future and Ghostbusters for $5.

Of course, AMC will only be reopening its theaters in areas of the country where it's permitted to do so, excluding numerous major cities. The company had pushed back its reopening date multiple times, but its plan now is to have more than 100 locations reopened on Aug. 20 and then another 300 or so reopened in the following two weeks. AMC previously announced safety policies it's putting in place to reopen, including enhanced cleaning measures and requiring customers to wear masks.

It remains unclear whether consumers will feel safe returning to the movies in the areas where they can do so, though, as well as if they'll even be interested during these first days of operation when major new blockbusters won't yet be playing. The New Mutants is scheduled to open on Aug. 28, while Tenet is to be released in select cities on Sept. 3, by which point AMC says it will have two-thirds of its locations opened. But on the same weekend that Tenet opens, Disney will be enticing consumers to stay home as Mulan, which was originally intended for a splashy theatrical release, hits streaming instead. Brendan Morrow

8:10 a.m.

Subscription bundles from Apple may be coming this fall.

The company plans to start offering consumers bundles of its various subscription services, such as Apple TV+ and Apple Music, for one price beginning "as early as October," according to a new report from Bloomberg.

The bundles are reportedly being referred to as "Apple One" inside the company, and there would be several tiers at different prices. The cheapest would give users access to both Apple Music and Apple TV+, with the next tiers adding on Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and more iCloud storage. While no price point has been revealed, the report says they're intended to save customers between $2 and $5 or more a month.

Apple had been expected to roll out subscription bundles, especially as the price tag of subscribing individually to its growing number of services continued to rise. Bloomberg also describes this as a "major bid by Apple to achieve the same loyalty" that Amazon has with Prime, which sees users subscribing for one recurring fee and getting various services from Amazon like free shipping as well as access to Amazon Prime Video. Apple's own streaming service, Apple TV+, launched last November.

In addition to the bundles, Apple is also developing a "new subscription for virtual fitness classes," which would be included in one of the pricier subscription bundles and "rival virtual classes offered by companies" like Peleton and Nike, Bloomberg reports. While the report notes there's a possibility that Apple's plans change, the Apple One bundles could reportedly launch alongside the next line of iPhones later this year. Brendan Morrow

7:11 a.m.

College football has fractured into at least two camps, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceling their fall seasons on Tuesday due to COVID-19 and the other three Power Five conferences — the SEC, Big 12, and ACC — confirming Wednesday that they will try to plow ahead with their truncated schedules. At least two smaller conferences have also scrapped their seasons and as of now, 53 of America's 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams will sit this autumn out.

Fans are despondent, and "the loss of college football will have a crushing impact on bars, restaurants, and other businesses that rely on football fans," The Associated Press notes.

Ohio State devotee Jeff Hewitt, a Democratic strategist in Texas, called Politico's Renuka Rayasam with a theory, she wrote Tuesday night: "If college football gets canceled in the Midwest it would cost Trump the presidency. I laughed, but Hewitt was serious." And he's not alone. The Big Ten conference covers seven key battleground states with massively popular college football teams, and Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray told The New York Times the loss of their Saturday fix could push Republican voters away from Trump, especially the tiny sliver of undecideds. "It's just one of those markers that reminds people of how much has been disrupted in their life," he said.

Politics is simply "not as important as college football in Ohio, in Georgia, in Alabama," ESPN college football radio host Paul Finebaum tells the Times. "And without it, people will be lost and people will be angry." He said he has strained to keep politics out of his program this summer, but "we don't have a day that doesn't pass where someone doesn't call up and blame the president. Even from the South, I've heard more anger directed at the president than I thought."

Some Republican operatives said Trump will be insulated from the anger because he has publicly urged colleges to play football and even called up some players and coaches to enlist their help salvaging the season. But the loss of college football on Saturdays feels like "yet another piece of fabric was being torn from American life," the Times notes, and especially in the rural areas of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio where Trump's support runs deepest, "losing football may be a political stain that the president is unable to blame on his enemies in the Democratic Party or on the media." Peter Weber

5:22 a.m.

Joe Biden and his new running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), held their first joint appearance Wednesday at a Delaware high school, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "It was a warm and energetic launch to their campaign, but when Biden took the stage, Joe did not pull any punches, especially when it came to Trump attacking his running mate." He found Biden's line that "whining is what Donald Trump does best" a bit unfair.

"One person who was not thrilled with Biden's choice is his opponent," and Trump's "criticism had a familiar ring to it," Colbert said. Oddly, "one person Trump thinks Harris was particularly 'nasty' to is her new running mate."

"Like, is Trump attacking or defending Joe Biden? I can't tell," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "I mean of all people, Donald Trump should totally understand how you can be with a woman who's publicly humiliated you."

"Kamala Harris on the ticket with Joe Biden is a genius move by the former VP, because not only does she tick a bunch of boxes, but clearly, conservatives are gonna struggle to put her in one," Noah said, playing a highlight reel. "Honestly, it's kind of cute watching Republicans flail around trying to figure out the right talking points." He illustrated the GOP confusion with a mock attack ad.

"As of right now, Biden and Harris are up by 10 points on Trump and Pence," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Just to rub it in, at the end of their event they both moonwalked down a ramp." He showed, then mimicked, Trump's attacks on Harris. "Meanwhile, in a new attack ad, the Trump campaign has already labeled them 'Slow Joe and Phony Kamala,'" Fallon said. "And if you have a 'Slow' and 'Phony' joke that doesn't end with 'Those used to be Trump's nicknames for Eric and Don Jr.,' write to us."

The Late Late Show's James Corden showed Harris slamming Trump at her joint event with Biden. "Donald Trump getting bullied in a high school gym! It's honestly the first time I've related to him." He and his crew agreed that Harris is a much better pick than Hillary Clinton's running mate, who they made a show of not remembering.

And The Late Show had some condolence cards for all the running mates who didn't make the cut. Watch below. Peter Weber

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