The C.D.C.’s Continuing Confusion

The presidential campaigns flood the Midwest as Ginsburg’s death fuels a rush of donations to Democratic Senate candidates. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

When it comes to the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t seem to agree with itself.

The agency — where Trump administration appointees are intermixed with career scientists — posted virus guidance on its website late last week stating that the “main way the virus spreads” was through air droplets from people’s mouths. But yesterday, the C.D.C. quietly removed that language from the site.

“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” the C.D.C. said, adding that updated language would be posted when it was completed.

Medical experts don’t all agree on how the virus is most commonly spread, although air transmission is known to play a prominent role. “In the scientific community, it’s become very clear that aerosols are very important,” Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne viruses at Virginia Tech, told The Times. “I hope that it comes back in some form that acknowledges the importance of aerosols.”

This was only the latest in a recent string of reversals and other confusing developments at the nation’s top health agency, further shaking public trust at a moment when most Americans say in polls that they lack confidence in the federal government’s pandemic response.

In August, the C.D.C. said that people who were in close contact with an infected person but had no symptoms didn’t need to get tested.

But last week, after The Times reported that the guidance had been dictated by political appointees in the administration rather than scientists, the agency reversed itself and declared that anyone in close contact with an infected person should be tested.

President Trump said that he would wait until the end of this week to nominate a successor to fill the Supreme Court seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday. “We want to pay respect,” he told Fox News yesterday. “It looks like we will have probably services on Thursday or Friday, as I understand it, and I think in all due respect we should wait until the services are over for Justice Ginsburg.”

He said later that day that he would “probably” announce his pick on Saturday.

In that same Fox interview, he floated a new conspiracy theory, citing zero evidence as he questioned a statement Ginsburg’s granddaughter had made to NPR that the jurist had expressed a dying wish that her replacement not be named until the next president was inaugurated.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has made it clear where he stands. “This Senate will vote on this nomination this year,” he said yesterday.

Attention now turns to a few Senate Republicans seen as possible holdouts. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has said she would not support holding a vote before Election Day, and Susan Collins of Maine has stated that she wants the winner of November’s presidential election to pick the nominee. That means only one more Republican could defect without throwing the nomination into jeopardy.

Strengthening McConnell’s hand, Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Charles Grassley of Iowa signaled yesterday that they were unlikely to stand in the way of filling the vacancy.

Trump said he was considering five women for the nomination, but did not name them.

People close to the situation have said that Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, appears to be the front-runner. She is followed by Barbara Lagoa, a federal circuit judge in Atlanta, whose Cuban-American heritage could be a boon to Trump’s electoral prospects in Florida.

News of Ginsburg’s death drove a record-breaking flood of donations to Democratic groups and candidates over the weekend.

By Monday, more than $160 million in contributions had been processed by ActBlue, making it that fund-raising platform’s most lucrative weekend in history.

At least 13 Senate Democratic candidates raised more than $1.3 million each from Friday to Monday in a single fund-raising push.

Newly flush with cash itself, the Biden campaign is taking the fight directly to the Midwestern states that were crucial to Trump’s victory in 2016. Joe Biden was in northeastern Wisconsin yesterday, touring an aluminum foundry, and today Kamala Harris plans to visit Michigan, with stops in Flint and Detroit.

The Democratic candidates are hoping that along with hefty recent advertising buys in many Midwestern states, their appearances will help turn out both white working-class voters who have soured on the president and some of the African-American voters who stayed home four years ago.

“I know many of you were frustrated,” Biden said yesterday, addressing those who had not voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “I promise you this: It will change with me. You will be seen, heard and respected by me.”

The Biden campaign’s advertising spending in the Midwest shows just how heavily it is investing there, our resident On Politics ad expert Nick Corasaniti tells us:

In the four key battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, the Biden campaign has spent more than $41 million on television advertising in the last month alone. By comparison, the Trump campaign has only spent $8.5 million in those states over the last 30 days. Looking ahead, both campaigns are set to spend more than $35 million in the four states, a number that is sure to grow as Election Day draws near.

The Trump campaign now finds itself facing a cash disadvantage for the first time this year. Biden’s war chest was over $140 million greater than Trump’s, according to a Politico report yesterday.

Still, the president may not allow himself to be as badly outspent going forward as he was in August. His campaign was partly in reset mode that month, retooling its strategy under new leadership. And despite its cash disadvantage, Trump’s team clearly sees the Midwest as central to any potential victory.

The president was in Ohio yesterday for a rally, where he married an attack on China with invective against Biden’s economic policies — touching on two of Trump’s strongest areas among voters, according to polling.

“Put simply, if Biden wins, China wins,” Trump said. “If we win, Ohio wins and most importantly, in all fairness, America wins.”

Photo of the day

President Trump boarded Air Force One yesterday for his trip to Ohio.

There are 3 ways the Supreme Court could now rule on Obamacare.

By Sarah Kliff

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means the Supreme Court will have a smaller liberal wing when it hears the latest Obamacare challenge in November — a fact Democrats will highlight in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. Joe Biden has already begun linking the court vacancy to Obamacare’s future, saying this weekend that “health care hangs in the balance.”

Experts who watch health litigation closely, however, do not expect the Affordable Care Act to be overturned in this case. Instead, as Margot Sanger-Katz and I wrote in a new Upshot article, they expect it to end one of two ways: with the health law upheld or a deadlocked decision that sends the case back to a lower court. They don’t believe the justices have the appetite to overturn landmark legislation at a moment when a full court is not seated.

Many scholars see the case as legally weak, and probably unpersuasive to the high court. Unlike the two previous cases involving the health law — when the court’s liberal and conservative justices tended to disagree on major legal issues — this case centers on areas of law that are less disputed and less ideological. Conservative legal experts who supported the previous health law challenge have opposed this one.

If the Supreme Court does not uphold the Affordable Care Act, legal experts see a second-most likely option: a deadlocked vote. That could happen if President Trump has not appointed a new justice by Nov. 10, when oral arguments are set to occur. In that scenario, the Obamacare challenge gets remanded back to a lower court to be reconsidered. The case could reach the Supreme Court again, but that process might take years. In the meantime, the health law would still stand unchanged.

Of course, the Supreme Court is unpredictable, and there is always the chance it could overturn the health law entirely. In that scenario, protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions would be eliminated and millions would be expected to lose their health coverage. “It is still unlikely to prevail, but the small chance of a very bad thing happening is worth worrying about,” said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, who supports Obamacare.

New York Times Podcasts

Ginsburg’s life, and the battle for her seat

In a two-part special, our team at The Daily reflected on the achievements of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and examined the fight to replace her on the Supreme Court.

In the first of two episodes on her life, we charted her journey from her formative years to her late-life stardom on the Supreme Court. In the second episode, we considered the ramifications of her death and the struggle over how, and when, to replace her on the bench.

You can listen here.

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