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The new politics of global warming

The 2020 election is both very different and very familiar when it comes to the politics of global warming and the stakes of the outcome.

What's new: Democratic voters are more concerned than in prior presidential cycles, polling shows.


  • “It became one of the top priorities for the base of one of our two parties,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, a Yale analyst of public views on climate. “For the first time, there was a real climate vote in the primaries.”
  • In addition, the devastating West Coast wildfires are putting fresh focus on global warming's contribution to extreme weather as the race enters the homestretch.

Why it matters: The policy gap has never been wider.

  • Joe Biden's platform is more aggressive than Hillary Clinton's four years ago, and goes far beyond anything floated or implemented under former President Obama.
  • President Trump rejects consensus climate science and is unwinding Obama-era policies.

Yes, but: Here's the familiar part. Polling shows an extremely durable partisan divide.

  • For instance, Pew Research Center polling this year showed that 78% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said climate should be a top government priority, up from 46% in 2015.
  • "In contrast, only 21% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said this year that climate change should be a top priority — a virtually identical share as in 2015 (19%)," they note.

The intrigue: Contrary to conventional wisdom that candidates run toward the center in the general election, Biden's platform has moved closer to what left activists want since he won the nomination.

  • This indicates that one of Biden's key priorities is motivating his base voters, not just appealing to a vanishing pool of undecideds, Leiserowitz said.
  • “He knows how important it is to mobilize and motivate young voters, Latino voters, suburban women voters — all of whom have identified climate change as one of their top priorities," he said.
  • Still, Biden's plan doesn't attack fossil fuels as much as some activists have called for. He recently emphasized in Pennsylvania, a big gas producing state, that he's not proposing a fracking ban.

What we're watching: Whether the fires and other extreme weather prompt lots of questions about climate in the upcoming debates. If so, it would be a break from past cycles.

The bottom line: Climate change is never close to the biggest political focus in presidential campaigns, and that's still true. But its profile is rising as the stakes get higher.

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

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Democrats look to Kamala Harris as bridge to next generation

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.

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Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules, caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

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States beg for Warp Speed billions to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.

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Court rules Minnesota absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Election Day

An appeals court on Thursday ruled that Minnesota absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

Why it matters: The ruling, which comes just five days before the election, blocks the state's plan to count absentee ballots arriving late so long as they're postmarked by Nov. 3 and delivered within a week of the election. Now those ballots must be set aside and marked late.

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Twitter labels tweet from RT implying voter fraud in U.S. elections

Twitter on Thursday labeled a tweet from Russian state media outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) that included a video implying widespread voter fraud is plaguing, and potentially delegitimizing, the U.S. election.

Why it matters: It's the first time Twitter has labeled RT's account with a civic integrity label, or a designation used to highlight efforts to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.

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U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

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The norms around science and politics are cracking

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.

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