2020 Daily Trail Markers: Candidates chase cash as July comes to a close

Caitlin Contant, CBS News

Hard to believe, but it’s the final day of July, meaning presidential candidates and political parties were making their final pitches before the monthly filing period closed, according to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. In fundraising emails over the past couple of days, the Biden campaign was racing to raise $8 million more to close the month while the Trump campaign said it wanted to see $25 million more in donations before July came to an end.  

This comes after the Biden campaign and Democrats outraised the president and Republicans in the last two monthly filings for May and June. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee had its best online fundraising day and its third best online fundraising day ever Thursday. The online cash haul came in the same day that President Trump tweeted about delaying the election and former President Obama spoke at the funeral of John Lewis.  Committees are required to file with the Federal Election Commission by August 20.

Joe Biden zeroed in on why he has mostly stayed mum on President Trump’s election date change tweet on Thursday, stating the president was trying distract from the funeral of Rep. John Lewis. “By the way, as these numbers have gotten worse, what did he do today,” Biden asked the donors who joined him and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn virtually. “He called for not having the election on November 3. He wants to postpone the election…He doesn’t want to focus on what’s going on today with our buddy and your close friend, Jim, who you just buried.” 

The fundraiser was also hosted by potential veep pick Rep. Karen Bass, who Clyburn urged Biden to consider, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. “Clearly Trump has dusted off the ‘George Wallace for President’ playbook and over the next few weeks we are going to see hatred and division like we haven’t seen in a long time,” Bass said last night. Friday evening he will be joined by another potential running mate: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, at a “grassroots” fundraiser.

The Trump campaign has temporarily paused TV ad spending as it undergoes a “review and fine-tuning of the campaign’s strategy,” according to a Trump campaign official. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga confirms the reevaluation under new campaign manager Bill Stepien does not extend to digital advertising. The Trump campaign has spent more than $84 million on television advertisements alone since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, including a whopping $17.6 million in political battleground Florida and $10.4 million in Pennsylvania. 

Two weeks ago, Mr. Trump promoted Stepien into the top job at the campaign, ousting Brad Parscale. After he was bumped up from political director to deputy campaign manager in late May, Stepien initiated a review of the operation’s infrastructure and spending. NBC News first reported the television ad pause.

So far, there’s little indication of change in strategy. A new digital ad released Friday falsely claims opponent Joe Biden supports defunding of police. Biden has said he supports redirecting some police resources to address mental health or to change the prison system, but he told CBS News he opposes defunding the police.  The ad also utilizes images of protests taking place under President Trump’s leadership to make the argument that a Biden administration would not keep Americans safe.

While the campaign may be reevaluating its ad strategy, Mr. Trump is still forging ahead, announcing by tweet, “We are doing a new ad campaign on Sleepy Joe Biden that will be out on Monday.” A Trump campaign official told CBS News, “After the campaign reviewed ad strategy, we are going back up on the air with a focus on states that begin voting early.  The 2020 calendar is different from past years and there are many states where a majority of votes will be cast before election day. This is a smarter strategy.”

CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES

FLORIDA INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY GAP

CBS News is chronicling what has changed in the lives of residents of some of the biggest battleground states in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Less than a month out from schools restarting in districts across the country, COVID-19 has forced school administrators to incorporate distance learning in the upcoming semester. In this edition of CBS News COVID Chronicles, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell explored how education leaders and local stakeholders are assessing the internet and technological gaps facing students who want to opt for remote learning but can’t afford technology, or live outside of the range of internet connectivity. 

“When they can’t connect because they lack the technology, it instantly means they’re not learning,” said Whitney Johnson, a math teacher in Broward County. “If I’m teaching a class and it’s via Zoom, they’re missing that instruction. If they have questions that they need to ask me but they don’t have technology, they can’t ask me those questions…there’s a complete disconnect.” 

In Leon County in Tallahassee, South City Foundation partners with the local school district to ensure that the south side of town, a particularly vulnerable community, has the educational information and resources needed. “This digital divide that we talk about, it spans rural and urban areas,” said South City Foundation co-chair Loranne Ausley, a state representative whose district includes Leon County. Ausley noted that high-speed internet is a “basic essential right” in today’s learning environment. 

“It is something that families need not just for kids to access homework, but for families to access telehealth, to be able to work remotely, to be able to find out information about the health pandemic.” Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hannah said his team is tackling the digital divide by offering creative solutions like WiFi buses that were dispatched to low-income neighborhoods in the spring, to provide internet to students who didn’t live near internet access points. 

His district has also spent $11 million to buy enough laptops for every student in the county. “This may be the future of education…but it’s not the future if our kids don’t have the devices, and they don’t have access, and then they get left behind,” said Hannah. “And that’s unacceptable.”

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