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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Pence talks with governors amid fallout from Trump's testing comments

Vice President Mike Pence told the nation's governors on Monday that President Trump's comments at his Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, about slowing down testing for the coronavirus were just "a passing observation," according to audio of the call obtained by CBS News Correspondent Ed O'Keefe. On Monday, Pence clarified the president's comments about testing under questioning by Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak, who sought assurance that state and federal leaders would stay on the same page about the importance of testing for COVID-19. Sisolak called the president's comments "not helpful" — but neither he nor Pence referred to them as a joke, according to audio of the call.

"The president's comments on Saturday night as it related to his order to slow down the testing were certainly not helpful," Sisolak told Pence. "We're doing everything we can in Nevada to increase our testing, to increase the availability of the testing and our cases have gone up. It's not solely a result of more testing, it's also a result of people not wearing masks and not following the social protocols. So, if we could all get on the same page and get a commitment that there's not a federal mandate to slow down testing I think it would be extremely helpful."

CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar reports that Pence told Sisolak the administration is "going to continue to partner with you on testing, I think the president's observation was a passing observation in his remarks." The vice president said the increased capacity in daily testing is leading to a higher number of positive results. In a statement after the call on Monday, Sisolak said testing "is a critical component to Nevada's Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan," adding that an increase in testing "helps determine the spread of the virus in the community and gives state and local public health operations critical information to pursue aggressive measures to help monitor and respond to outbreaks."

Pence also told the governors the Trump administration remains focused on rising cases in nine states, with the situation stable in the other 41, and he told the governors that medical officials are seeing a growing trend of more people under age 45 testing positive for coronavirus. "We are seeing steady progress in the vast majority of states," Pence told the governors, according to one person listening in on the call. During the call, Pence also called on Republican governors from Florida, Texas and Arizona to explain how they're handling a sharp rise in infection in their states. Pence and other officials on the call especially praised Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for his management of a record number of infections in the Sunshine State. DeSantis reiterated what he has said publicly — that increased testing among younger, asymptomatic people is driving the rate of infection.



Joe Biden is planning to participate in three previously-scheduled debates with Mr. Trump and not one more, his campaign confirmed to CBS News correspondent Ed O'Keefe on Monday. The Biden campaign is also calling on the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates to explain how it plans to hold the in-person debates scheduled for September and October despite the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is no reason why Vice President Biden and President Trump cannot meet for debates with appropriate safety and social distancing measures (set by public health authorities) on the three dates the CPD has identified. Nothing should prevent the conduct of debates between Joe Biden and Donald Trump on these dates; again, we do not want to provide President Trump with any excuses for not debating," the Biden campaign wrote in a letter to the commission on Monday.

The commission has organized the televised debates dating back to 1988. This year, debates are also set to occur on September 29 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana; October 15 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan and October 22 at Belmont University in Nashville. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for October 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. 


Two more staff members working on the president's Tulsa rally tested positive for the coronavirus, the Trump campaign confirmed to CBS News correspondent Ed O'Keefe. "These staff members attended the rally but were wearing masks during the entire event. Upon the positive tests, the campaign immediately activated established quarantine and contact tracing protocols," Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. On Saturday, the Trump campaign confirmed six members of the advance team had tested positive for coronavirus only hours before the president's first rally in over three months kicked off. NBC was the first to report the positive cases.

Just under 6,200 attendees filed into the BOK Center to watch Mr. Trump during his first rally, according to the Tulsa Fire Marshall's office. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports aides to the president's re-election bid, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, touted that there were 1 million RSVPs online. But with far fewer than expected showing up at arena doors, an outdoor stage assembled for overflow crowds who would not fit into the 19,000 seat arena was swiftly dismantled. White House senior adviser and Mr. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Parscale both admitted over the weekend to Mr. Trump that they are not "strategists," amid concerns the campaign lacks an overall strategy, CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett and White House coordinating producer Arden Farhi report. According to multiple conversations with campaign advisers and Trump allies, Mr. Trump grew frustrated by the yawning gap between the advertised crowd size and what materialized.

Mr. Trump's Tulsa rally has been viewed as a breakdown in data management, among GOP circles. Republican officials tell CBS News that while it is not a calamity that only 6,000 people showed up, a sharper analysis of rally RSVPs would have revealed thousands punked the Trump campaign with fake sign-ups, leveling expectations for the rally turnout amid new coronavirus case spikes in Oklahoma. Saturday's rally has strained the historically tight and reinforcing relationship between Parscale and the Trump family, including Kushner. The mounting pressure comes amid a campaign shakeup. Top 2016 Trump campaign official Jason Miller rejoined the president's re-election team this month, tasked with redefining the campaign's driving message. Bill Stepien, senior advisor to the campaign, was promoted to deputy campaign manager in late May.



The Democratic Association of Secretaries of States (DASS) is trying to flip the seats of chief elections officers in five states and kickstarted the effort Monday with the release of a digital ad highlighting the office charged with protecting voter rights, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. The occurrence of the coronavirus pandemic in an election year has thrown a spotlight on the voting process because of changes states have been making to limit voters' exposure. The ad, which will be featured on social media sites, ties black voter suppression to white supremacy in the U.S. "White supremacy does not endure on its own. It is propped up by suppressing black voices and votes," a narrator says in the nearly two-minute long video.



A race worth watching on Tuesday that was not receiving national attention until recent weeks is the Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky, reports CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson. Former Marine Amy McGrath had been the favorite after receiving support from national Democrats and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but state Representative Charles Booker has surged in recent weeks, collecting high-profile endorsements from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren while participating in protests across the state. Internal polling shared with CBS News by the McGrath campaign shows McGrath has about a 10-point lead on Booker, but a spokesperson for Booker said it's hard to rely on polling when the race is changing everyday as Booker becomes more well known. An official on the Booker campaign told CBS News their internal polling shows similar margins to McGrath's campaign's polling with Booker only 10 points down, but a few weeks before that, he was 50 points down. The official said the trajectory suggests Booker could win but wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. McGrath has been hit in ads from the left and the right — by Booker for not being "a real Democrat" and from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling her "Extreme Amy" for being too far left. Booker and McGrath are competing to take on McConnell in November. McConnell has seven primary challengers on the ballot, but he is the favorite.


New York, Kentucky and Virginia will be holding congressional primaries on Tuesday, and with a Republican runoff in North Carolina's 11th District as well, a total of 41 House seats will be on the ballot. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro has a rundown of the most notable races to watch this week: 


Progressives will be closely watching the results in New York's 16th District, as their backed challenger Jamaal Bowman is looking to unseat 31-year incumbent Eliot Engel. Bowman has been backed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who unseated a longtime incumbent herself in 2018. Engel has received endorsements from Hillary Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Chuck Schumer. The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC has waded into this race late to boost Engel, trying to hit Bowman with an ad about unpaid taxes (Bowman responded on Twitter to the ad). As of June 19, the group has spent at least $1.55 million on this race. 

Nearby in the South Bronx, more than 10 candidates are running to fill the open seat in the state's 15th District. Democrats are looking to beat city councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., a Puerto-Rican born pastor that has a history of being against same-sex marriage and abortion, as well as being friendly toward Mr. Trump. Council member Ritchie Torres is looking to prevent Diaz Sr. from holding the seat, and told CBS News political reporter Grace Segers the election of Díaz Sr. "would be one of the greatest tragedies of 2020." Segers has more on that race here

In the 17th District, seven candidates are looking to represent Congresswoman Nita Lowey's old seat. The latest available poll shows lawyer Mondaire Jones with an 11-point lead over former Obama defense official Evelyn Farkas and Adam Schleifer, who served as a federal prosecutor in California and is the son of a pharmaceutical CEO. Schleifer has funneled more than $4 million of his own wealth into the campaign.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is facing her own primary this Tuesday, with former journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera looking to unseat the high-profile freshman Democrat. Caruso-Cabrera, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and endorsed by the New York Post, has framed Ocasio-Cortez as more concerned with national politics than the district. Ocasio-Cortez has a large fundraising advantage, with more than $10 million raised, and aired an attack ad saying Caruso-Cabrera "isn't one of us" and has ties to Wall Street. 


While some districts in Virginia opted for Republican conventions rather than primaries, seven districts still have primaries on Tuesday. In districts of targeted House Democrats such as Elaine Luria in Virginia's 2nd, Republicans are looking to settle on their challenger. Former Congressman Scott Taylor is angling for a rematch, but first has to get past veteran Jarome Bell and former candidate Ben Loyola. In the state's 10th District, Republicans chose Marine veteran Aliscia Andrews during a Saturday convention to challenge Democrat incumbent Jennifer Wexton.

Another House race to watch is in Kentucky's 4th District, where Republican Thomas Massie is facing a challenge from attorney Todd McMurtry. Massie is known recently for his attempt to delay a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, prompting some ire from Mr. Trump, but an internal poll showed him with a large 77 to 11 lead.

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