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Inside Joe Biden's Supreme Court strategy

Joe Biden’s closing argument will shift to a dominant emphasis on health care, turning the looming Supreme Court fight into a referendum on coverage and pre-existing conditions, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Biden aides believed they were winning when the race was about the coronavirus pandemic. Now they plan to use the Supreme Court opening as a raucous new field for a health care fight, returning to a theme that gave Democrats big midterm wins in 2018.


Here’s the case Biden will make: The new justice could have a deciding vote on protections for pre-existing conditions.

  • Biden said in Philadelphia on Sunday: "There is so much at stake — the right to health care, clean air and water, and equal pay for equal work. The rights of voters, immigrants, women and workers."
  • The Biden campaign will coordinate closely with House and Senate Democratic leaders on how to link the Supreme Court fight to Trump's coronavirus response.
  • Like House Democratic challengers in suburban seats in 2018, Biden will constantly remind voters that Trump's stated goal has always been to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Don't forget: An Affordable Care Act case will be heard by the Supreme Court a week after the election. A decision is expected in June 2021.

Between the lines: Biden advisers view the court vacancy as a rare last-minute chance to get a second look from independents.

  • The campaign will use the coming fight to appeal and motivate younger voters who want to protect Roe v. Wade.
  • "If you want something to fire up young people who weren’t all that interested this year, this is it,” John Anzalone, a Biden pollster, told the New York Times.

The other side: Republicans see the court vacancy as a new chance to hold the Senate by juicing GOP turnout in states like North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis has been trailing in public and private polls, officials tell Axios' Alayna Treene.

  • Trumpworld now believes a fired-up Republican base diminishes Democrats' hopes of flipping Texas and Georgia.
  • But nothing appears easier for Cory Gardner in Colorado or Susan Collins in Maine.

Republicans view the SCOTUS fight as a battle of the bases: They think they can demoralize Democrats, and depress turnout, if they quickly fill RBG's seat.

The dangerous instability of school re-openings

Schools across the country have flip-flopped between in-person and remote learning — and that instability is taking a toll on students' ability to learn and their mental health.

The big picture: While companies were able to set long timelines for their return, schools — under immense political and social strain — had to rush to figure out how to reopen. The cobbled-together approach has hurt students, parents and teachers alike.

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Trump doesn't have a second-term economic plan

President Trump has not laid out an economic agenda for his second term, despite the election being just eight days away.

Why it matters: This is unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns, and makes it harder for undecided voters to make an informed choice.

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How Trump’s energy endgame could go

Expect President Trump to redouble his efforts loosening regulations and questioning climate-change science should he win reelection next month.

Driving the news: A second Trump administration would supercharge efforts by certain states, countries and companies to address global warming. But some wildcards could have a greener tinge.

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The swing states where the pandemic is raging

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, The Cook Political Report; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Several states that are likely to decide which party controls Washington next year have exceptionally large coronavirus outbreaks or are seeing cases spike.

Why it matters: Most voters have already made up their minds. But for those few holdouts, the state of the pandemic could ultimately help them make a decision as they head to the polls — and that's not likely to help President Trump.

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Tropical Storm Zeta may strengthen into hurricane before reaching U.S.

The U.S. Gulf Coast and Mexico are bracing for another possible hurricane after Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Caribbean Sea Sunday.

Of note: Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season — equaling a record set in 2005.

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Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for COVID-19 recovery

The Rockefeller Foundation announced on Monday that it will allocate $1 billion over the next three years to address the pandemic and its aftermath.

Why it matters: The mishandled pandemic and the effects of climate change threaten to reverse global progress and push more than 100 million people into poverty around the world. Governments and big NGOs need to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery reaches everyone who needs it.

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How Amy Coney Barrett will make an immediate impact on the Supreme Court

In her first week on the job,Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

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Biden team rebuffs Texas Democrats' pleas for more money

The Biden campaign is rebuffing persistent pleas from Texas Democrats to spend at least $10 million in the Lone Star state, several people familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: If Texas — which has 38 electoral votes and is steadily getting more blue, but hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976 — flipped to the Biden column, it would be game over. But the RealClearPolitics polling average stubbornly hovers at +2.6 for Trump — and Team Biden appears more focused on closer targets.

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