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2020 Election Live Updates: Trump Will Hit the Trail as the Barrett Hearings Begin

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The event that conservatives hoped would reshape the 2020 election is upon us: The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett begin Monday at 9 a.m. Eastern time and promise to last most of the week. Republicans have regarded her nomination as an opportunity to reinvigorate voters on the right and refocus the broader electorate on matters other than the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, Judge Barrett’s appointment has not worked out that way. The White House event at which President Trump announced her election became a major transmission point for the coronavirus — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci called it a “super-spreader event” — and at least two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been infected. Mr. Trump’s bout with the disease, and rising case counts across most of the country, have relegated the Supreme Court fight to the political background for most of the last few weeks.

There is still hope within the G.O.P. that Democrats might fumble the hearings in a way that could be politically useful to them — a concern some Democrats share, given the apparently diminished capacities of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel that will screen the nomination. And at the very least, the hearings give Republicans something to talk about besides Mr. Trump and the virus, even if that is where most voters remain focused. That could be no small favor in red states where Senate seats are at stake.

It is unlikely, however, that Mr. Trump will cooperate with efforts to shift the spotlight this week. He is due on Monday to campaign in Florida, making his first in-person appearance outside Washington since he tested positive for the coronavirus. The president’s insistence on returning to the campaign trail while there are still huge unanswered questions about his medical condition, including about the continued presence of the coronavirus in his body and his ability to transmit it to others, has the potential to become a bigger story than the opening stages of the judicial confirmation process.

That may be doubly the case if Mr. Trump and his supporters continue their practice of flouting basic public-health guidelines for large events, as has been their tendency up to this point.

The question for Democrats — not just Joseph R. Biden Jr. but the party’s whole ticket — may be how much time and political capital they will put into making a strenuous public case against Judge Barrett, at a moment when Mr. Trump continues to serve up generous quantities of easier political fodder for the election that is only weeks away.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times