With deaths from the coronavirus nearing 200,000 in the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday assailed President Trump for playing politics with a potential coronavirus vaccine, saying he did not trust Mr. Trump to determine when a vaccine was ready for the American people.
“Let me be clear, I trust vaccines,” Mr. Biden said. “I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t either.”
Shortly after Mr. Biden’s speech in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Trump seemed to lend credence to the former vice president’s criticism by publicly rebuking the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for saying that widespread vaccination might not be possible until the middle of next year. Speaking during an evening briefing at the White House, the president also kept up an attack line against Mr. Biden, misleadingly accusing him of “promoting his anti-vaccine theories.”
In his speech, Mr. Biden thrust the issue of a coronavirus vaccine to center stage in the presidential race, expressing grave concern over the political pressure he said Mr. Trump was exerting over the government’s approval process and accusing him of trying to rush out a vaccine for electoral gain.
“Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does,” he said. “They certainly don’t adhere to election cycles. And their timing and their approval and their distribution should never, ever be distorted by political considerations. It should be determined by science and safety alone.”
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks after receiving a briefing on the coronavirus vaccine from top national health experts, including Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, a former surgeon general.
As Mr. Trump, eager for a political victory, continues to suggest that a vaccine could be ready before Election Day, that prospect could become a significant campaign issue in the final stretch — if it hasn’t already.
The president’s comments that one could be rolled out before Nov. 3 have unsettled health officials, who worry that Mr. Trump is creating the impression that a vaccine might not be properly vetted at a time when the public is already concerned about political interference in the approval process.
During his briefing on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said a vaccine would be announced “this month, next month,” then boasted that a vaccine would be ready “in a level of time that nobody thought was possible because of what we did with our F.D.A. in terms of streamlining it.”
Mr. Trump’s timeline has confounded many health experts, however, including Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., who estimated during a Senate hearing on Wednesday that a vaccine could be available for limited use by the end of the year, and for wider distribution by the middle of next year. In his briefing, Mr. Trump publicly undermined Dr. Redfield, saying he thought Dr. Redfield had “made a mistake when he said that.”
“It’s just incorrect information,” Mr. Trump continued. “I called him and he didn’t tell me that and I think he got the message maybe confused.”
Mr. Biden also said Wednesday that he believed he would have the legal authority as president to enforce a national mask mandate, which he has called for previously.
“Our legal team thinks I can do that based upon the degree to which there’s a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country and if we don’t do it, what happens,” he said, adding that if it were determined that he had the legal authority to sign an executive order mandating masks, he would.
A somewhat awkward moment on the campaign trail Tuesday — when Joseph R. Biden Jr. played a few bars of “Despacito” from his phone after being introduced by its singer, Luis Fonsi — took a turn early Wednesday morning when President Trump shared a manipulated video of the moment with N.W.A.’s anti-police anthem “____ tha Police” dubbed in.
The doctored video, which Mr. Trump shared twice, was in line with his frequent attempts to suggest that Mr. Biden opposes law enforcement, including his false claim that Mr. Biden wants to defund the police — a position the former vice president has repeatedly emphasized that he opposes.
As a senator, in fact, Mr. Biden was the architect of much of the hard-line criminal justice legislation of the 1980s and 1990s, a fact that some progressive groups have criticized.
“What is this all about,” Mr. Trump wrote in a message that accompanied the video. Twitter later added a “Manipulated media” warning to it.
Mr. Trump later doubled down on the messaging at a news conference at the White House.
“Biden described the police as the enemy,” Mr. Trump said. “They are not the enemy. They are our friend.”
But while Mr. Biden did use the word “enemy” in comments about the police in July, he was referring to how some communities view officers who are armed with military-grade equipment. “The last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood; it’s like the military invading,” Mr. Biden said. “They don’t know anybody; they become the enemy, they’re supposed to be protecting these people.”
The tweet came on a day of other misleading statements from Mr. Trump’s campaign and his allies.
On Wednesday afternoon, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said that Mr. Trump had “always supported mask wearing” during the coronavirus pandemic, a day after Mr. Trump cast some doubt on the value of wearing masks during a nationally televised town hall event.
The president, who almost never wears a mask in public despite recommendations from federal health officials, has previously questioned their usefulness and often disparaged them.
The doctored video was created by the pro-Trump meme-makers behind the account “The United Spot.” They describe their content as “100% parody/satire,” but their YouTube page offers a wide range of disinformation narratives targeting Democratic politicians, the United States Postal Service and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, while also amplifying toxic conspiracies like Pizzagate.
The United Spot has built up a social media following across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and is listed as a content creator on MemeWorld, a loose right-wing media collective with a direct line to the White House. The president has retweeted manipulated content in the past from MemeWorld contributors, including the site’s owner Logan Cook, who goes by the name Carpe Donktum online. Mr. Cook’s Twitter account was suspended in June for repeated copyright violations.
Mr. Biden was appearing at a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee, Fla., where he had traveled in a bid to shore up support among Latino voters in the increasingly Democratic central part of the state and to unveil his plan to support Puerto Rico.
Jaime Harrison, the Democratic nominee trying to unseat Senator Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, is closing the gap, according to a poll released on Wednesday by Quinnipiac University.
Surveying likely voters in South Carolina, the poll showed that Mr. Harrison and Mr. Graham were tied with 48 percent of the vote each. In the poll, 93 percent of respondents said their minds were made up, while 6 percent said they might change their minds.
Mr. Graham, who is seeking his fourth term in the Senate, has been a vocal supporter of President Trump.
Mr. Harrison was optimistic on Wednesday, writing on Twitter, “You don’t have to believe in miracles to believe we can win this race.”
You don’t have to believe in miracles to believe we can win this race. Once again, we are ALL TIED UP IN SOUTH CAROLINA.
Let’s do this, y’all!!! 💪🏻💪🏽💪🏾 https://t.co/EG2kFpEN1D
— Jaime Harrison (@harrisonjaime) September 16, 2020
Quinnipiac also surveyed voters in key Senate races in Maine and Kentucky. The margin of error for the three polls, conducted Sept. 10-14, was roughly plus or minus three percentage points.
In Maine, the Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, is ahead, with 54 percent of likely voters saying she was their choice, while Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, received 42 percent support. Ms. Collins is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents.
The path for Republicans to retain control of the Senate is looking increasingly shaky, with Republican incumbents imperiled by President Trump’s declining standing with voters.
Republicans currently hold 53 seats. If Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeats Mr. Trump, Democrats would need a net gain of three Senate seats to win the chamber, since the vice president breaks a 50-50 tie. They will need a net gain of four seats if Mr. Trump wins a second term.
“Senate control hangs in the balance as the G.O.P. confronts a likely nail-biter in South Carolina and a possible knockout in Maine, offset by a presumably solid lead in Kentucky,” Tim Malloy, a Quinnipiac University polling analyst, said in a statement.
In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader who is seeking a seventh term, holds a strong lead over his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, the poll found. He was chosen by 50 percent of likely voters surveyed, while Ms. McGrath received 41 percent.
President Trump said in a television interview on Wednesday that he was satisfied with his administration’s coronavirus response, other than with regard to his media coverage.
“I think we did a great job with coronavirus, except at public relations,” Mr. Trump told the interviewer, Greta Van Susteren, of the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people in the United States. “They spent so much time working. Look, we would have lost two and a half million people, as I’ve said. We’re at 185,000, and it’s too much. One person is too much. Because it never should have been allowed to happen by China.”
He added, “We did a great job — except public relations-wise, my people got outplayed.”
The remark is in keeping with how Mr. Trump views almost everything about his presidency, focusing on how it reflects on him and how it plays in the news media. Still, the comment was striking coming from a president who considers himself his own best spokesman, and who insisted on appearing in the White House briefing room day after day in the spring to address reporters himself.
At one notable briefing, Mr. Trump mused about the possibility of people injecting chemicals like bleach into their bodies to kill the virus. At others, he berated reporters over and over. Throughout the briefings, his support among voters fell in public polls.
President Trump, in a news conference on Wednesday, again took aim at President Barack Obama’s handling of the swine flu outbreak a decade ago to defend his own response to the coronavirus.
“They did so bad on swine flu, you wouldn’t believe it,” Mr. Trump said. “The person heading it up said it was a disaster,” he said.
Mr. Trump was most likely referring to Ron Klain, once Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s chief of staff, who was the Obama administration’s Ebola response coordinator but was not the “head” of its response to the swine flu.
Mr. Klain, asked at an event last year about vaccine development and whether the Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies was equipped to deal with a flu outbreak, said that “we did every possible thing wrong,” adding that it was “purely a fortuity that this wasn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history.” Mr. Klain said this year that his comments solely addressed the difficulties in producing a vaccine for the H1N1 virus, which caused the outbreak.
Mr. Trump’s subjective assessment of the H1N1 response is at odds with those of public health experts and government reports. Medical experts told The New York Times in 2010 that there were weaknesses in the response, but that federal officials fared well over all. A 2012 Government Accountability Office report noted that planning and funding “positioned the government to respond effectively” and communication was largely successful, but that delays in vaccine availability diminished trust.
President Trump has repeatedly used inaccurate claims to criticize the Obama administration’s response to the H1N1 outbreak. He has falsely asserted that “they didn’t do testing” and “got very poor marks from Gallup.”
Since the first case of the novel coronavirus in the United States was detected in January, 240 days ago, there have been 6.6 million reported cases, nearly 390,000 hospitalizations and 196,410 reported deaths. In roughly that same amount of time, from the first case of H1N1 in the United States on April 15, 2009, to December 2009, there were less than 43,000 hospitalizations and about 2,000 reported deaths. (A vaccine became available to the public in early October 2009, though there were reports of shortages.)
The gulf in numbers can be attributed in large part to the coronavirus’s simply being deadlier than H1N1. It’s worth noting, however, that the Obama administration did not have significant issues with swine flu testing, while the Trump administration’s response to testing for the coronavirus was characterized by shortages and delays.
Touting it as a sign that society and the economy can reopen, President Trump’s campaign applauded the announcement that the Big Ten Conference will start playing football next month, then took a dig at former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“We know that Joe Biden would not have pushed for this,” Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “He has looked for every reason to keep our country closed for as long as possible, because he believes it would help him politically.”
Football has always been bathed in politics but never quite like this year, in which the future of football during the coronavirus pandemic has become a fever-pitched topic in the presidential campaign.
But the Big Ten Conference, which initially said it would not hold football games this fall, has been a particular focus, as it has several major programs located in critical swing states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Mr. Biden’s campaign made a play for the support of football fans, releasing internet videos in four battleground states that blamed Mr. Trump for empty college stadiums. (Big Ten games will not have fans in the stadium this fall, though players’ relatives could be allowed to attend.)
Mr. Biden has also enlisted prominent athletes to attack Mr. Trump’s response to the virus, including Calvin Johnson, the former Detroit Lions wide receiver.
While Mr. Biden has urged caution in reopening, Mr. Trump has made restarting football a top priority, even with coronavirus cases still climbing.
On Wednesday, he cheered the news on Twitter and took some credit for helping to make the return of Big Ten football happen.
“I called the commissioner, and we started really putting a lot of pressure on, frankly, because there was no reason for it not to come back,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference.
He then urged the Pac-12 Conference, which also said last month that it would not play football this year, to follow suit.
But Big Ten officials said Wednesday that the conference had not accepted any aid from Washington and that political pressure had played no role in their decision.
Some college football programs that have returned to play this season have already reported challenges. Louisiana State University announced this week that many of its players had contracted the virus. Texas Tech has announced 75 positive cases since players returned to campus. Both teams are scheduled to play their next games on Sept. 26.
This is around the time when convention bounces start to diminish. It’s still too soon to say whether President Trump’s bounce will fade or endure, but Tuesday was arguably Joe Biden’s best day of state polls since the Republican National Convention. Here’s a closer look at polls of Florida and Wisconsin.
The best news for Biden in a while in Florida. A poll from Monmouth University showed Mr. Biden up four percentage points among likely voters on average, his best result from a nonpartisan, live interview pollster there in several weeks. He held a wide lead in Florida over the summer, but it has gradually slipped — in part because of a somewhat surprising weakness among Latino voters. The Monmouth poll shows no signs of that weakness, with Mr. Biden leading by 26 points among Hispanic voters, comparable to Hillary Clinton’s performance four years ago. If Mr. Biden can match Mrs. Clinton among Hispanic voters, he’ll be in a strong position: Polls consistently show Mr. Biden running ahead of Mrs. Clinton among white voters.
Now, gauging the support of Hispanic voters in Florida is not easy. About a third of the state’s Hispanic voters are Cuban, and they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Miami area — the toughest area of the state to reach in a survey. As a group, those voters lean Republican. But the other two-thirds are heavily Democratic and live across the state. On top of that, Hispanic voters are harder to reach in general. They’re younger and concentrated in urban areas, and many speak Spanish as a first language, which adds further difficulties — and costs — for pollsters.
All that to say: In Florida a lot will hinge on how pollsters can measure a relatively small group of hard-to-reach voters. So interpret any single result among Latino voters with caution, especially in Florida.
Another poll showing Trump trailing badly in Wisconsin. One place where the polls have offered consistently bad news for the president is Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden has held a steady lead. A CNN/SSRS poll added to the consensus by showing Mr. Biden up by 10 points, one of his largest leads there this cycle. The firm also gave Mr. Biden a three-point lead in North Carolina, another result consistent with a clear national advantage for the former vice president. One note of caution: CNN/SSRS polls have tended to tilt to the left compared with the average of polls so far this cycle, as well as in 2018.
Tomorrow, we expect another poll of Wisconsin from ABC News/Washington Post. If it joins the club of high-quality pollsters showing at least a five- or six-point lead for Mr. Biden, that would yield about as clear of a picture as you’re going to get in a battleground state so far from an election.
A stable day nationwide. There weren’t many national polls, but the handful we did get were largely consistent with their prior results and with a fairly stable race.
Odds and ends Morning Consult had a relatively weak result for Mr. Biden in Minnesota, though there’s plenty of other recent polling there showing Mr. Biden with a wider lead. Florida Atlantic University showed a tied race in Florida, though the firm doesn’t have much of a track record and its methodology is a mixed bag. Virginia Commonwealth University gave Mr. Biden a double-digit lead in Virginia.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose of Ohio, a Republican, on Wednesday pushed back against a court ruling that had paved the way for counties to deploy multiple drop boxes for absentee ballots in November.
Mr. LaRose said in a written statement to the court that he could not comply with the judge’s ruling because Ohio law mandates that only one drop box may be placed in each county.
The Ohio Democratic Party had filed a lawsuit saying that Mr. LaRose was disenfranchising voters by attempting to limit the number of ballot boxes. On Monday, Mr. LaRose moved to block the installation of six drop boxes at libraries in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland and a substantial percentage of Black voters in the state, a battleground that President Trump won in 2016.
Judge Richard A. Frye of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court ruled on Tuesday that state law did not preclude the installation of multiple drop boxes per county and that Mr. LaRose’s order was “arbitrary and unreasonable” during a pandemic. Mr. LaRose will appeal the ruling, his spokeswoman said.
With concerns about postal slowdowns and delayed mail-in ballots, election officials in some states are looking to alternative options, like drop boxes, which provide voters an option for casting absentee ballots without having to rely on mail delivery.
The Ohio Democratic Party said that the one drop box in Cuyahoga County, which has more than 860,000 voters, was not enough, and that voters who rely on public transportation could more easily reach a drop box if there were more in different locations. The party said it could take more than one hour on public transportation to travel from several communities in Franklin County, home of Columbus, to that county’s drop box.
Mr. LaRose said on Wednesday that he supports adding drop boxes if is legal to do so, but that existing law prohibits drop boxes from being at locations other than a county’s board of elections office.
“Yesterday’s ruling has enormous implications for holding a secure and fair election in Ohio and assuring voters of the integrity of its result,” his spokeswoman, Maggie Sheehan, said. “For those reasons, Ohioans deserve a full and immediate review of the ruling by the appellate courts.”
On Wednesday, Judge Frye put his order on hold, staying his ruling pending the outcome of the appeal.
The feud between the U.S. Postal Service and officials who administer and count the vote is heating up as deadlines loom and worries increase over the possibility of operational and political chaos in November.
With record numbers of Americans expected to vote by mail in this extraordinary pandemic-era election, one secretary of state, Jena Griswold of Colorado, has gone so far as to sue the Postal Service over a postcard sent to voters urging voters to “plan ahead” if they are voting by mail. She contends that the mailer contained misinformation that would disenfranchise voters in her state. Ms. Griswold, in her effort to stop the distribution of the postcard in Colorado, obtained a temporary restraining order blocking further delivery of the cards there.
Other states said they are considering similar legal action to stop the mailers, which are being delivered nationwide. Regulations on absentee voting vary from state to state.
The feud has also become a campaign issue, one fueled by President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting encourages fraud as well as by Democrats’ countercharges that Trump allies at the Postal Service are working with him to sabotage the election by hobbling the mail vote.
This friction is expected to feature prominently in a private telephone conference on Thursday involving Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, who is a major Trump campaign donor, and dozens of secretaries of state, several of whom said in interviews with The New York Times that they would use the call to voice concerns about the postcard and about operational and policy changes at the Postal Service that had slowed mail delivery.
The acrimony has already hampered efforts to develop coherent messaging and processes for handling mail ballots, people inside the Postal Service and election administration agencies say. They warn that if the working relationship doesn’t improve quickly, it could increase the likelihood of election-time confusion, including the potential disqualification of as many as one million ballots for missed deadlines.
Readers of newspapers like The Miami Herald and The Kansas City Star will probably have to choose a presidential candidate in November without the help of their local editorial boards, according to a memo circulated by the company that owns the newspapers, McClatchy.
McClatchy’s 30 papers will be permitted to make a presidential endorsement only if they conduct interviews with both Joseph R. Biden Jr. and President Trump, who is not in the habit of talking to local newspaper editorial boards. The company’s policy was distributed internally by Colleen McCain Nelson, McClatchy’s national opinion editor.
“If we don’t interview the candidates, we won’t make a recommendation for president,” the memo says. “Most readers aren’t turning to us for national political commentary, and they can choose among dozens of news organizations that deploy journalists to cover the presidential campaign full-time. If we’re simply observing the race from afar, our ability to provide unique content and our own reporting is severely limited.”
The decision is part of an attempt to keep the newspapers, which were recently purchased out of bankruptcy by a hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management of New Jersey, focused on their local mission. “Local, Local, Local,” reads one section of the memo, which was first circulated in January, according to a McClatchy spokeswoman, but had not been previously reported.
The memo represents a retreat from an important feature of 20th-century newspaper journalism. It also reflects an effort to steer away from the all-consuming vortex of national news and carve out a place for local news sources whose businesses are in free fall. Other local papers, including The Dallas Morning News, have said they will not endorse this year.
The McClatchy newspapers include several in key swing states, including The Herald, The Charlotte Observer, and The Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.
Newspaper endorsements, or a lack thereof, may not prove crucial to the outcome in November. In 2016, only two of the 100 largest newspapers in America endorsed the winner, Mr. Trump.
It ended in Delaware, where Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, easily fended off a progressive challenger, Jessica Scarane. If there was a universal lesson from this year’s intraparty battles — especially for Democrats — it is that for all the restive energy on the party’s left, it is the party’s moderates who in most districts continue to cobble together winning coalitions.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the party’s presidential nomination, as the limits of Senator Bernie Sanders’s coalition became clear.
Progressives at first punted on all of the Senate contests and jumped in to help Charles Booker in Kentucky only after he gained traction following the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Mr. Booker lost after being hugely outspent by Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who faces long odds against Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader.
Of the three Democratic House incumbents who lost renomination, two — Representatives Eliot L. Engel of New York and William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri — showed the path for the left: Find a progressive candidate of color in a big city. The other Democrat to be retired was Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois, whose anti-abortion views have long been out of step with his party.
Still, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman, the progressive upstarts from St. Louis and the Bronx who ousted Mr. Clay and Mr. Engel, have laid the groundwork for a potentially larger class of 2022 progressive challengers.
It is also worth noting that the party’s high-profile progressive incumbents, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, easily fended off primary challenges from their right. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts also beat back Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.
But dozens of veteran House Democrats come from safe districts and are ripe for a challenge from their left — Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee, whose district includes Nashville, had a surprisingly close race against an underfunded progressive challenger. Besides Mr. Clay, there are many veteran Black members of Congress who haven’t faced a tough primary challenge.
Most of the Republican congressmen who lost primaries didn’t reflect any sort of ideological reckoning in the party. Iowans tired of Steve King’s dabbling in white supremacy. Ross Spano of Florida and Steve Watkins of Kansas were both freshmen with legal problems. Denver Riggleman of Virginia lost a convention vote of 2,400 delegates after officiating a gay wedding. Only Scott Tipton of Colorado lost a primary for being insufficiently conservative — he was felled by a QAnon sympathizer, Lauren Boebert.
What will the next round of primaries bring? It will depend a lot on who is president.
If Mr. Biden wins, the left will be energized and the existential threat of the Trump presidency for Democrats will be gone. The Republican contests are anyone’s guess.
Few Republicans cross President Trump now — he could be more vindictive after winning re-election. Yet if he’s out of office, there is certain to be a party-wide brawl about who inherits his political coalition.
Senate Democrats made a last-ditch attempt on Wednesday to quash a forthcoming Republican report on Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy firm, warning that the document could amplify Russian disinformation in an attempt to politically wound his father, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.
Introducing a resolution to block the report, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, argued that the Homeland Security Committee’s inquiry into the younger Mr. Biden was aiding a Russian attack on the election by reviving the same unsubstantiated claims about the Bidens that the American authorities have said Moscow was promoting, actions that resulted in new sanctions last week against a Ukrainian with ties to Russia.
The resolution called for senators to “cease any activities that allow Congress to act as a conduit for foreign election interference campaigns that launder and amplify Russian disinformation.”
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the committee’s chairman, objected to the measure, and vigorously defended his inquiry, which is slated for completion in the coming days. Mr. Johnson insisted he was not being used by Russian intelligence and accused Democrats of a “smear campaign” to protect Mr. Biden.
“I am well aware of what Russia is doing,” Mr. Johnson said. “I don’t condone it. I condemn it. I don’t have any part in spreading it.”
Mr. Johnson has made no secret of the fact that he wants a report out before the election and hopes that his conclusions will sway voters against Mr. Biden.
He said on Wednesday, even as his investigators were still at work, that he saw an obvious conflict of interest between Mr. Biden’s leading American foreign policy toward Ukraine as vice president at the same time that his son was being paid by a corrupt Ukrainian energy firm, but he offered no new details. Democrats said they had reviewed the record assembled by Republicans and had seen no evidence of wrongdoing.
“Nothing I have seen — not one bit of evidence — could lead to the conclusion Vice President Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said. Democrats were not alone in charging that Mr. Johnson was using the Senate for political ends. Earlier on Wednesday, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, chastised Mr. Johnson at a committee meeting for undertaking a “political exercise.”
“It’s not the legitimate role of government for Congress or for taxpayer expense to be used in an effort to damage political opponents,” Mr. Romney said.
The Johnson investigation covers some of the same territory as the one Mr. Trump demanded that Ukraine conduct last year, which, when the details of the scheme became public, led to his impeachment in December by the House of Representatives.
House Democrats’ campaign arm on Wednesday announced it would pour $9 million into voter education programs designed to encourage turnout during the pandemic, as the party looks to expand its majority in November.
The initiative, using mail, targeted phone banks and text messages to reach voters, is intended to educate voters — particularly voters of color — about the voting options available to them.
“This election cycle is just so unprecedented in so many ways,” Representative Cheri Bustos, Democrat of Illinois and the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said. “It’s why we’ve got to meet this moment that we’re in right now. We certainly don’t want to get to the middle of November and say that voter confusion was our Achilles heel.”
Buoyed by a backlash to President Trump among affluent, suburban voters and staggering fund-raising sums brought in by their most vulnerable incumbents, House Democrats are on the offensive this election cycle, targeting districts that once were conservative strongholds.
“With fewer than 50 days until the most consequential election of our lifetimes, ballots have already been mailed in multiple states and Democrats are well-positioned to expand our majority in the House of Representatives,” the campaign arm’s top officials wrote in a memo on Wednesday.
For years, Republicans had familiar bogeymen they could reliably link to Democratic opponents in advertisements — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Now the most prominent doomsday figures in G.O.P. ads aimed at riling up the conservative base tend to be high-profile House Democrats from “the Squad,” the quartet of progressive women of color who were first elected in 2018 and are all on track to retain their seats this year.
The Republican David Young, a former Iowa congressman who lost his seat in 2018, takes things a step further in a TV ad he began airing on Wednesday in Des Moines. The ad aims to tie Representative Cindy Axne, the Democrat who ousted him, to, of all people, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland — who is not a Squad member but is among the more progressive House Democrats.
Mr. Young’s ad says Ms. Axne “skips work and lets this far-left, East Coast congressman vote in her place.” It says Mr. Raskin is “pals with Pelosi, wants to raise taxes and even spoke at a defund the police rally.” It also shows Mr. Raskin in two photos with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and at his swearing-in with Ms. Pelosi.
It is a double bank-shot ad, trying to tether Ms. Axne to Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez through Mr. Raskin, a relatively low-profile figure who lives 1,000 miles from Des Moines. The argument is that because Ms. Axne supported allowing remote voting by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic, she is “outsourcing” Iowa’s representation to someone who doesn’t understand the state’s values, rather than showing up for work.
House Democrats voted back in May to allow remote voting in an attempt to keep members and their staff safe. Ms. Axne has voted by proxy three times via Mr. Raskin, whose home in Takoma Park, Md., is seven miles from the Capitol.
Ms. Axne’s voting record shows no sign that Mr. Raskin has co-opted her vote. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been on opposite sides of 11 votes, most of them amendments offered by progressive members like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez or Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, according to the congressional vote tracker maintained by ProPublica.
Where It’s Running
So far the ad has aired during local news on the three major broadcast networks in Des Moines.
Tying one’s opponent to a disliked figure in their party is a tactic as old as the republic. But it usually helps if voters have a passing familiarity with the person in question. Mr. Raskin is hardly a household name in Washington, let alone to Iowa voters. It might have been more efficient to just tie Ms. Axne to Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez directly.
But that too may not have worked. In 2018 Republican incumbents flooded the airwaves with ads warning electing Democrats would return Ms. Pelosi to power. Democrats picked up 40 seats and made Ms. Pelosi the speaker again.