On Monday, President Trump picked a fight with Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. On Tuesday, it was Lesley Stahl, the “60 Minutes” correspondent, who was caught in the president’s cross hairs, after he cut short an interview in frustration and then mocked her on Twitter for not wearing a mask at the White House after the interview.
Feuding with individuals who are not actually Mr. Trump’s opponent, in a race that is two weeks away, has struck many in his orbit as a waste of limited time when he should be singularly focused on making the race a referendum on Joseph R. Biden Jr., the person he is actually running against.
But his advisers saw gleams of hope, nonetheless.
For one, their internal numbers over the past three weeks have stabilized after the double whammy of the first presidential debate, in which Mr. Trump’s aggressive performance hurt him, and then his subsequent hospitalization for the coronavirus.
And while Mr. Biden continues to lead in places like Wisconsin and Arizona, he has also done so without breaking decisively into a double-digit lead, leaving open the possibility that the race will tighten alarmingly on Election Day, when in-person ballots come in.
Trump campaign officials are also watching the mammoth early voting numbers come in with some skepticism, because there’s nothing to compare them to. They think Democrats are not close to reaching the number of mail ballot requests they need if more than 40 percent of their voters plan to vote by mail.
An ABC News poll released Tuesday showed a one-point race in the battleground state of North Carolina, with Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump 49 percent to 48 percent, and was heralded as good news for a campaign that has invested heavily in the swing state.
And they think the Thursday night debate offers Mr. Trump one last chance to reset the dynamics before Election Day. Some of his advisers have told him to try and employ some humor, even acknowledging the reality that many of the suburban women voters and older voters he needs are turned off by his tone and his Twitter feed. One person advised him to pledge to tweet less in a second term.
Mr. Trump, however, has never been easy to coach, and is already coming in fuming, not only at Mr. Fauci and Ms. Stahl, but at the Presidential Debate Commission, for changing the rules, and at the moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, who he has been trying to claim is biased despite having praised her work in the past.
People in Florida and Alaska reported receiving menacing and deceptive emails on Tuesday that used false claims about public voting information to threaten voters: “Vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.” (There is no way for any group to know for whom individual voters cast their ballots.)
One of the emails, obtained by The New York Times, came from an address that suggested an affiliation with the Proud Boys, a far-right group. But metadata from the email shows that it did not come from the displayed email address — “email@example.com” — but instead originated from an Estonian email server.
The email obtained by The Times had been sent to a voter in Gainesville, Fla., and was nearly identical to dozens of others that had been reported in the city. Voters in Brevard County, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska, also reported receiving similar emails.
Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville said in an interview that the emails were “a very brutish way of trying to intimidate people from going to the polls,” but that none of the voters he had talked to seemed to have been fooled.
Federal and local law enforcement authorities in Florida are investigating the emails, and have put out alerts on social media to warn voters.
“We here at the Sheriff’s Office and the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections are aware of an email that is circulating, purported to be from the Proud Boys,” the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. “The email appears to be a scam and we will be initiating an investigation into the source of the email along with assistance from our partners on the federal level.”
Don Schwinn, 85, a retired environmental engineering consultant and snowbird who is registered as a Democrat in Melbourne Beach, Fla., said in an interview that he received one of the emails on Tuesday afternoon and reported it to the sheriff’s office.
He said it was troubling that Mr. Trump had not condemned the Proud Boys when he was asked about the group during his debate last month with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee.
“I actually thought it was real. The message was so threatening that it took over,” Mr. Schwinn said.
Mr. Schwinn said that he and his wife, who were both registered Republicans before the 2016 election, had already voted by absentee ballot.
President Trump falsely insisted on Tuesday that the United States is “rounding the turn on the pandemic” and distorted Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s position on fracking as he sought to close ground in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Trump hammered his Democratic opponent’s energy policies, repeating a false claim that Mr. Biden supports a total ban on fracking, a major industry in the state. In what Mr. Trump said was a first for one of his campaign rallies, he played on large video screens a montage of several clips in which Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, talked about phasing out fossil fuels to combat climate change.
“If Biden is elected, he will wipe out your energy industry,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump also offered a litany of false claims about Mr. Biden’s position on the coronavirus, saying that the former vice president would “delay therapies, postpone the vaccine, prolong the pandemic, close your schools, shut down our country.” But his claim that under his own leadership, the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic was sharply at odds with the reality that the virus was surging both nationally and in Pennsylvania, where cases are at a level the state has not seen since April.
Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by an average of 7 percentage points in the state, according to the Upshot’s calculator. Mr. Trump, seeming to acknowledge that deficit, pined for the days earlier this year when his electoral standing looked brighter. Before “the plague” arrived, he said, “I wasn’t going to Erie. I mean, I have to be honest, there’s no way I was coming. I didn’t have to.”
He added, “We had this thing won.”
Mr. Trump had one other warning for voters during his rally: that Mr. Biden would fail to entertain them as he has. “If you want depression, doom and despair, vote for Sleepy Joe,” he said. “And boredom.”
President Trump and his allies have tried to paint Joseph R. Biden Jr. as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there.
But Mr. Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company.
And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Mr. Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president’s tax records, which were obtained by The New York Times. The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear.
The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C., which the tax records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.
The tax records do not include details on how much money may have passed through the overseas accounts, though the I.R.S. does require filers to report the portion of their income derived from other countries.
In response to questions from The Times, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said the company had “opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes” associated with efforts to do business there. He said the company had opened the account after establishing an office in China “to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia.”
“No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive,” Mr. Garten said. “Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose.”
Mr. Garten would not identify the bank in China where the account is held. Until last year, China’s biggest state-controlled bank rented three floors in Trump Tower, a lucrative lease that drew accusations of a conflict of interest for the president.
China continues to be an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign, from the president’s trade war to his barbs over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign has tried to portray Mr. Biden as a “puppet” of China who, as vice president, misread the dangers posed by its growing power. Mr. Trump has also sought to tar his opponent with overblown or unsubstantiated assertions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings there while his father was in office.
As for the former vice president, his public financial disclosures, along with the income tax returns he voluntarily released, show no income or business dealings of his own in China. However, there is ample evidence of Mr. Trump’s efforts to join the myriad American firms that have long done business there — and the tax records for him and his companies that were obtained by The Times offer new details about them.
Jo Becker contributed reporting.
In an election year functioning in a seemingly constant state of enmity, one in which few politicians and institutions have been unscathed from attacks, the two rival candidates vying to become Utah’s next governor are an outlier.
The Republican lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, and the Democratic candidate, Chris Peterson, appeared together in a series of new public service announcements promoting civility in politics.
In the ads, which were shared by the rivals on social media on Tuesday, the two candidates stand about six feet apart, with Mr. Cox wearing a red tie and an elephant button and Mr. Peterson in a blue tie with a donkey button.
In one ad, Mr. Cox says, “While I think you should vote for me,” before Mr. Peterson interjects, “Yeah, but really you should vote for me.”
Mr. Cox then concludes: “there are some things we can both agree on.”
The candidates, who are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that they wanted to set an example of how politicians should conduct themselves.
“We can debate issues without degrading each other’s character,” says Mr. Peterson, a first-time candidate and a law professor at the University of Utah.
Mr. Cox adds, “We can disagree without hating each other.”
In another one of the ads, Mr. Cox and Mr. Peterson both pledged to accept the outcome of the presidential election, something that President Trump has repeatedly balked at when asked in interviews and in his first debate with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Whether you vote by mail or in person, we will fully support the results of the upcoming presidential election, regardless of the outcome,” Mr. Peterson says.
Mr. Cox echoes his opponent.
“Although we sit on different sides of the aisle we are both committed to American civility and a peaceful transition of power,” he says.
Mr. Peterson and Mr. Cox conclude the ads by saying in unison that they approve the messages.
To help spur voters to the polls, most politicians conduct in-person canvassing or send mass emails. But Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken a novel approach: She asked her nine million Twitter followers to watch her play a video game.
“Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, tweeted on Monday afternoon, referring to the popular livestreaming platform. She added that she had never played it “but it looks like a lot of fun.”
Among Us is a cartoony game in which players try to stay alive on an alien spaceship. In a nutshell: Players who are designated as “crewmates” must run around completing a set of tasks while trying to root out and avoid getting killed by other players who are acting as “impostors.”
The game was created in 2018 and has soared to popularity during the pandemic. Major streamers, YouTube stars and TikTok influencers now play it for millions of fans.
On Tuesday night, more than 300,000 users went online to watch Ms. Ocasio-Cortez play Among Us with a handful of popular streamers. It was another illustration of how Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has a degree of internet literacy that was not seen in Congress before she entered politics.
As Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s pink “aoc” avatar bounced around the spaceship, a video beneath the action showed the headphone-clad congresswoman smiling as she played — and occasionally gasping when her avatar ran into trouble.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez talked a little about politics — including health care and transgender rights — and the presidential election. She said that she planned to vote in person, rather than by mail, because she wanted her vote counted on Election Day.
“I’m so excited by this upcoming election,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez added a few minutes later. “We can overwhelm the polls, and we can get things back on track.”
For the most part, though, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was absorbed in the game itself, and the spaceship where her avatar was competing. At one point she observed that some of its features seemed anachronistic.
“What kind of futuristic spaceship still runs a combustion engine?” she asked. “I mean, really?”
A federal appeals court ruled that North Carolina election officials can continue to accept absentee ballots up to Nov. 12, provided they were postmarked by Election Day.
The ruling, issued by the Fourth Circuit of Appeals late Tuesday night in a 12-3 ruling, rejects a Republican appeal to block a ballot deadline extension issued in late September by the North Carolina Board of Elections, which changed the day ballots must be received by election officials from Nov. 6 to Nov. 12.
Republicans in the state had argued that the extended deadlines created two sets of rules for voting in North Carolina, an argument the court rejected.
“As for applying different rules to different voters, again, the Board’s change does no such thing,” Judge James A. Wynn wrote. “All voters must abide by the exact same restriction: they must cast their ballots on or before Election Day. The change impacts only an element outside the voters’ control: how quickly their ballots must be received to be counted.”
“This change, of course, may have its own important consequences for the health of our citizenry — in terms of unnecessary infections avoided — and our democracy — in terms of lawful ballots cast and counted,” Judge Wynn added.
The ruling comes after the Supreme Court of the United States declined to rule on a ballot deadline extension in Pennsylvania, which kept in place a ruling that allowed for ballots to be counted if they were received three days after Election Day.
Many college towns have looked a lot different this fall, their campuses quiet as universities adopted online instruction to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
With that change came a new political wrinkle: Some House candidates, typically Democrats, can usually count on support from students living on college campuses in their districts — but many of those students are now living back home, tied to their computers for classes.
For Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a Democrat who beat an incumbent Republican in 2018 and flipped the Eighth Congressional District blue for the first time in 20 years, the switch to largely virtual teaching means the potential loss of thousands of reliably Democratic voters at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
In a House district that was decided last time by 13,098 votes out of more than 340,000 ballots cast, the loss of any votes this year keeps Ms. Slotkin up at night. She can no longer pitch herself to a captive audience of students hanging out in dorms, because almost all of them are shut down. And hitting the tailgate parties during football games on Saturdays with campaign literature, handshakes and smiles? Forget about it. Michigan State’s delayed football season is just starting this Saturday, and only the families of football players will be allowed into the stadium.
“I’m having trouble figuring out how to factor it in,” Ms. Slotkin said. “In a normal year, you’re out talking to people, you’re at the doors and everybody’s telling you their feedback. When you have a normal field campaign, you have polling, which we still have, but we don’t have a model for this. Literally, I don’t have an algorithm to explain to me what missing 50,000 potential voters does to my race.”
Not all of the 49,695 students enrolled at Michigan State would have registered to vote in East Lansing for this election, but about 6,000 of them were registered in August when the university announced that most classes would be taught online, Jennifer Shuster, the city clerk, said. Many of those students are now changing their registration to vote in their hometowns, she said.
“The numbers are going to go down in certain precincts,” Ms. Shuster said. “I definitely think it could impact certain races.”
— Kathleen Gray