In the frenetic final days, there’s still one major issue in this campaign

President Trump delivered on one of his core promises as Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in at the White House for a lifetime term on the Supreme Court.

Does that make it more likely that his supporters will turn out between now and Election Day? Or with three new conservative justices tilting the court sharply to the right, have Trump backers gotten what they wanted, making their choice less urgent?

It’s hard to know, amid a blizzard of polls and prognostication, what’s working and what isn’t in a campaign that most of the media expect Joe Biden to win.

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Will the Hunter Biden allegations be a major factor? “I don’t think it moves a single voter,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz told “Axios on HBO.” And I suspect he’s right.

Will Barack Obama’s stump speeches move the needle for his former vice president? Maybe slightly. Will Trump’s attacks on Obama–and he again hit Fox News for airing the ex-president’s speech and those of Biden–have an impact? I doubt it. (The network has a responsibility to air significant events by both sides.) Nor will Trump’s criticism of Lesley Stahl (whose interview helped “60 Minutes” draw 17 million viewers) or Kristen Welker (which gave way to praise after the debate) flip a swing state.

Even the censorship efforts by Twitter and Facebook, as heavy-handed as they are, aren’t likely to tilt the outcome.

What about the candidates’ travels? Biden spent yesterday in Georgia, a red state since 1996, either lured by neck-and-neck polls or in an attempt to make the president play defense on favorable turf. Trump was in Nebraska, a slam-dunk state for him, while noting that Omaha is near Iowa, which is tight. The president’s repeated visits to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are an effort to keep the blue midwestern states he snatched from Hillary Clinton four years ago.

But in this strange election, how much do these trips matter? Would Hillary really have won Wisconsin if she had bothered to visit the state in the final days? Ordinarily I’d say Trump’s far heavier schedule gives him an advantage. But Biden doesn’t want to make as much news, preferring to cede the spotlight to Trump and cast the election as a referendum of the incumbent. The president revels in his large crowds, but to Biden these are reckless events in the coronavirus era–including the ones by Mike Pence after his recent exposure to staffers who tested positive.

My take is that the election–and this is tied to the fact that more than 64 million Americans have already voted–will turn on the virus. The recent surge to about 75,000 new daily cases all but guarantees that.

It’s Covid that triggered the nosedive afflicting every part of the economy, from restaurants and theaters to major airlines. It’s Covid that has limited many schools and colleges to virtual learning. It’s Covid that touches everyone’s life.

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The president, who himself wound up getting the virus, keeps insisting we’re “turning the corner,” but that hasn’t happened yet. He has recently started blaming the media for overhyping the pandemic, calling CNN “dumb bastards” because its coverage has been “Covid Covid Covid Covid.”

Whether or not Trump is right that he avoided millions of deaths, or that the higher numbers are the result of more testing, places like Utah and Tennessee are warning of health care rationing and hospital bed shortages. The virus has hit many red states as hard as it hit New York and California last spring.

It’s not entirely clear what Biden would do differently. But as he campaigns to small audiences in his trademark black mask, the virus is obviously his number one issue.

In the end, the targeted travel, the rallies, the ad spending and the news-of-the-day attacks may marginally help one candidate or the other reach the magic number of 270. But I believe we will always look back on this as the Covid election.


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