How social media lost the GOP

With help from Myah Ward

TWEET STORM — If Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee get their way, they will be grilling Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in exactly a week. Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republican members of the committee are calling the social media platforms to task for blocking links to a New York Post story with salacious but unsubstantiated details about Hunter Biden. Cruz says the move amounts to election interference with less than three weeks to go until Election Day. Dorsey reversed Twitter’s decision to block the article today.

The feud between the Republican Party and America’s social media giants predates this contentious election cycle. The roots of that discontent can be partly traced to Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former strategist, senior technology reporter Nancy Scola told me today. Bannon, founding board member of Breitbart News, has long been skeptical of Silicon Valley and warned that social media companies were out to silence conservative voices.

Cruz once announced he was headed over to the Twitter-alternative Parler but was back tweeting, as Nancy put it, after “all of 45 minutes.”

The tech giants have taken plenty of flak from Democrats as well, who worry that the platforms don’t do enough to stop the spread of misinformation. Dorsey and Zuckerberg, along with Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 28 after a bipartisan, unanimous threat by committee members to subpoena the executives.

Can Nancy break down the origins of Republicans discontent towards Big Tech in three minutes? Watch to see if she can.

Welcome to POLITICO Nightly. Happy early birthday to Nightly’s Myah Ward and our resident Gen Zer. Reach out at [email protected] or on Twitter at @renurayasam.

First In Nightly

LATINOS FOR TRUMP — Trump has long known that his reelection hinges on him winning the battleground state of Florida — and part of that strategy means getting Cuban Americans in South Florida to the polls in large numbers. But in Hialeah, a working-class, predominantly Cuban city just outside of Miami, a vote for Trump has become about more than just him, or even the Republican Party. It’s about patriotism, Sabrina Rodríguez writes.

It’s a level of energy for Trump’s reelection — and a show of unabashed nationalism — that Republicans and Democrats alike here agree was not as visible in the past. Many immigrants are deeply patriotic, and for some of them, Trump’s tactics, from flag-hugging to the demonization of Democrats as lefty socialists, resonate. That’s what’s playing out in Hialeah, known as la Ciudad de Progresa, or City of Progress. And countering that is no small challenge for Democrats. “It’s about patriotism. If you love America, you hate socialism. And with Democrats moving toward a socialist agenda, that’s what’s got so many Cubans and other immigrants supporting Trump. They’re not supporting him necessarily. They’re supporting America,” said Nelson Diaz, chair of the Miami-Dade Republican Party.

The nearly 30 percent of Latino voters who support Trump are drawn to his America First, anti-socialist rhetoric, despite his tough-on-immigrants stance and incendiary language about Latinos. For these voters, contradiction is the norm. Cubans, as well as Venezuelans and Nicaraguans, fled countries with a history of strongman leaders. Now they’re embracing Trump, whose speeches often take an authoritarian, strongman tone.

Covid-2020

SECOND LADY HOLDS COURT — Second Lady Karen Pence visited a private home in Matthews, N.C. — a suburb on the outskirts of Charlotte — for a campaign event today. Nightly’s Myah Ward emails us this dispatch:

The car parked in front of mine was covered in massive stickers, one reading “Trump train.” Another one plastered on the side door said, “White Lives Matter.” A woman stood near the bottom of the driveway, waving a Biden-Harris sign over her head. She was outnumbered.

I spoke with two Trump supporters during my walk up the long driveway. Alaina Ramsay, 27, said she received a text about the event and wanted to show her support as a young Trump voter. “I feel like people our age are very silent if they are a Trump supporter because of the culture and backlash we get,” Ramsay said.

Ramsay was one of a few young women among the roughly 65-person crowd of middle-aged white women. So no, Trump hasn’t lost all suburban women.

The event took place in the backyard, on the host’s private tennis court. The crowd mingled and took selfies as they awaited the second lady’s arrival. The recorded sounds of female country artists blasted above the chatter. The handful of men that attended wore MAGA hats.

Masks were scarce. The few supporters who wore face coverings on their walk up removed them as they entered the crowd.

Susan Tillis, the wife of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), introduced Pence and drew laughs from the crowd as she said, “I’m taking off my mask.” Pence, too, ditched her mask when she took the stage, apologizing to the crowd as she tried to detach it from her earring.

“This president is all about promises made and promises kept,” Pence said. “As women, that’s important to us.” She praised Trump for nominating Amy Coney Barrett — “a wife, a mother of seven children, a woman of faith, integrity and character, and she is known as a brilliant legal mind” — to the Supreme Court.

Pence’s speech was much subtler than Trump’s, earlier this week, when he begged suburban women for their support. “Will you please like me?” Trump said. “I saved your damn neighborhood.”

Recent polls show Trump trailing Biden by wide margins among white women. And while he lost college-educated white women by 6 points in 2016, he’s now 37 points behind Biden, according to this week’s PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll.

WORLD WAR Z — Generation Z, which includes voters 18-23 years old, makes up one-tenth of the potential electorate. Gen Z turnout? That’s another story. In the latest POLITICO Dispatch, digital strategy editor Rishika Dugyala breaks down the issues younger voters care about — and how the two campaigns are trying to win them over.

Nightly Interview

TIMEOUT ON THE FIELD The New England Patriots canceled practice today after another player tested positive for Covid, during a week when the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons became the latest NFL teams to announce positive Covid cases, causing them to shut down their offices and jeopardizing future games. Positive tests have already scrambled the season’s schedule, but the league is forging ahead.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, told Nightly’s Renuka Rayasam that positive cases were inevitable but the relatively low numbers are a sign of success for the league’s approach to the pandemic. Smith, a former trial lawyer, said he finished John Barry’s The Great Influenza two days before helping to put together Covid protocols for the season. Renu spoke with Smith about whether the Super Bowl should be canceled, his iPad lock screen and what makes him angry. This conversation has been edited.

I spoke with former NFL-player-turned-doctor Myron Rolle who was very critical about the league’s efforts to keep players safe. Do you think the NFL has done enough?

The way players feel about how the league treats them is valid. We have dramatically changed the protocols in the league since 2011. We have limitations now, on the way in which our players practice, how long they practice and exactly what they can do and can’t do on the field. We’ve moved to a world where every player now has immediate access to their medical records in order to empower them to be their own health care advocates.

When it comes to Covid, people can take the view that they should have canceled the season. The reality is, there were players, a large number of players who wanted to play. The majority of them wanted to play. The question sometimes isn’t as binary as whether the season should be canceled or not. Sometimes, the question is, Can the season be conducted in a way that is as safe as possible for the players?

Would you consider changes to the season because of Covid, like shortening the season or moving or canceling the Super Bowl?

Absolutely. The motto for the union was that we were going to bend football to the virus, not try to bend the virus to football.

What worries you?

I’ve got a long list. We had a lot of internal discussions about the ethics of whether it would be the right thing to do to conduct this business in a pandemic, about ensuring that we wouldn’t be taking testing capacities away from the general public.

I worry that we don’t really have any control over whether fans are gonna be in the stands. I think that’s a huge concern, about potential super spreader events coming from the game of football.

You said last year that you would be stunned if Colin Kaepernick wasn’t signed by an NFL team. He’s still not signed.

I’ve always believed that he should be playing football. I’ve always believed that the only reason that he isn’t playing in the National Football League is because it was a decision by the NFL. And I still believe that.

Is your iPad wallpaper still a picture of James Baldwin?

I’ve always been a fan. One of the reasons that I keep him on my screen is he always managed to eloquently articulate his anger and yet his hope on where America should be. We all can feel anger. We should feel anger. But our ability to achieve change is inextricably linked to how well we engage others. That includes our friends and our enemies.

I should have asked not what worries you, but what angers you.

We don’t have that much time.

Ask The Audience

Nightly asked you: What’s the one question you would ask President Trump and the one question you would ask Joe Biden? Below are some of your lightly edited responses, divided between Trump and Biden.

DONALD TRUMP

“You, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Jared Kushner have had several conversations with world leaders, including leaders of Russia, China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Records of these conversations are essential for conducting the country’s foreign policy and national security. Has your administration preserved these records and will you assure the American people that these records will be preserved and turned over to the next Administration?” — William Stone, retired, Alexandria, Va.

“Tell me about one of the things you’ve done as president that the average person may not have known or heard about previously.” — Brenda L. Francis, sales representative, Redmond, Wash.

“How will you unite our allies to constrain China and Russia?” — Gerald J. Conroy, business adviser, Meridian, Idaho

“You have indicated that you have a health care plan to replace the ACA, but you have yet to share any details. Please describe the specific details included in your plan and the specific details of how you plan to implement it.” — Connie Robisch, retired, Canton, Mich.

“What are your three main goals for a second-term? They can be unresolved from the past four years or new. And what, specifically, is the plan to accomplish each of the three?” — Andy Bloom, consultant, Minneapolis

“To whom do you and/or your companies owe money and what are the terms for repayment of your debts?” — Millie Hast, writer, Houston

JOE BIDEN

“What will you do to reduce the power of money in politics?” — Margaret Seboldt, attorney, Wray, Colo.

“What do you plan to do to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and will this include increased subsidies for renewable energy generation and storage?” — Gary McSpadden, retired, Hubbard, Texas

“What fraction of your cabinet and close advisers are going to come from the party’s progressive wing?” — P.M. Binder, professor, Hilo, Hawaii

“Would you consider any members of the Trump administration for your administration?” — Jane Early, retired, Lansdale, Pa.

“In light of our politics over the past 30 years, why do you believe that you can unify the country around any set of policies?” — Steven Krause, psychologist, Cleveland

“What steps would you take to address the divisions in this country? The current black and white positions do not allow for discussion and trying to find common ground in the middle.” — Katherine Stanczyk, retired, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

From the Health Desk

LONG SHOT DOESN’T PAYThere won’t be a coronavirus vaccine ready before Election Day, despite Trump’s repeated promises and vaccine makers’ breakneck speed. The president’s last best hope for meeting that deadline fizzled today as Pfizer announced that it would not seek emergency authorization from the FDA before the third week of November. The company is the only frontrunner in the vaccine race that has said it could have proof its vaccine works by Nov. 3, health care reporter Sarah Owermohle writes.

The Election Day target was always an artificial one, created by a president who for months has touted it on the campaign trail and press briefing stage. When his administration’s top scientists disputed the timeline, Trump accused them of slowing down progress for political reasons.

In the meantime, dozens of companies, universities and government agencies are working at record speed — cutting years off the normal development process. That historic push is still on track to deliver a vaccine by early 2021, roughly a year after the virus first emerged.

The Global Fight

‘YOU DO NOT RUN AFTER THE WAVE’ The EU’s national leaders pledged Thursday to follow “the best available science” in their coronavirus response. But after weeks of resisting that same expert advice, they’re now chasing the wave, David M. Herszenhorn and Jillian Deutsch write.

With infections skyrocketing, countries are reimposing containment measures every day. But the reluctant and haphazard responses across Europe show how political leaders spent the recent weeks in collective denial. Even now, they’re bedeviled by the same quandary they faced since the pandemic started: Following the scientific advice will save lives but also stands to devastate economies.

The tension between public health guidance and the political and economic reality was on stark display in Berlin Wednesday, as Germany announced new restrictions and Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder urged fast and decisive action.

“It would be better to be in front of the wave,” said Söder. “You do not run after the wave.”

But it’s clear the second wave of new infections is already crashing over European states, including Germany and Söder’s own Bavaria. Even countries that thought they beat the virus in the spring are seeing high case numbers, such as Portugal and nations in Central and Eastern Europe.

PUNCHLINES

WE COULD ALL USE A LAUGH — Matt Wuerker returns for the latest edition of Punchlines, with political satire and cartoons on the long lines as early voting begins, the Senate hearings on Amy Coney Barrett and the campaign events crowding the calendar as Election Day draws nearer.

Nightly Number

Parting Words

SICK MAN ON CAMPUS Eugene Daniels emails:

Believe it or not, this nerdy political reporter played defensive end at Colorado State University. (My current love for high-waisted pants goes against the stereotype of a former player, but it’s true.)

The University of Alabama’s six-time national championship head coach Nick Saban tested positive for Covid-19 this week, sending shockwaves through a sport already struggling with getting back to a sense of normalcy. Almost 30 college football games have been postponed or canceled because of Covid-19. Saban is the seventh top-level college football head coach to test positive. For the record, Saban says he is feeling fine and is asymptomatic. Alabama’s football program announced today that Saban tested negative for Covid; if he has two negative tests in 24 hours, he’ll be allowed to return to coaching.

There’s almost no one more important to a team than the person with the final say. That’s true in politics and almost doubly true in college football, something the Crimson Tide football team is finding out right now.

Saban was almost always publicly social distancing, consistently seen with a mask on and even taking to social media promoting CDC guidelines. And Alabama is one of the few college football programs to institute daily testing of staff and players. His diagnosis is another reminder of Covid’s dangers and the risk in trying to give people some damn football to watch.

As a player, you look at your coaches, especially the head coach, as invincible. You look to them to keep you in line, push you and, most important, to keep you safe. I couldn’t imagine any of my coaches, let alone a head coach, being diagnosed with a virus. You have to wonder what that does to a 20-year-old’s sense of comfort, safety and morale.

As this fall’s football season began to kick off, Americans started to say, “We’re going to be alright.”

But let’s be real: Even with guidelines, football and college overall are about interaction and camaraderie, not isolation and distance. No one can promise safety for college football players.

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