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"Are you politically active?" Zelensky undergoes a blood test in Kiev ahead of his debate with Poroshenko. Photo: AFP/Getty

Ukraine appears to be 3 days away from electing a man best known for playing a president on TV as its actual president.

Why it matters: One recent poll shows Volodymyr Zelensky leading incumbent President Petro Poroshenko by a whopping 47 points ahead of Sunday's runoff. It's all the more remarkable because Zelensky has hardly campaigned and has few clear policy positions.

  • Poroshenko's unpopularity is tied to his failure to tackle corruption. The president has suggested the inexperienced Zelensky would be a dream come true for Vladimir Putin.
  • What to watch: Zelensky is slated to debate Poroshenko on Friday in front of a crowd of up to 60,000 at Ukraine's national stadium.

Claire Kaiser, an expert on Eastern Europe at McLarty Associates, says that if Zelensky wins, he'll have to build a strong national security team and send an early signal he has a handle on foreign policy.

  • "Anyone running the show in Ukraine has the dual challenge of managing the economy and finding some sort of solution to the war in the East," she says.
  • Kaiser says Zelensky hasn't sent any signals that he plans to shift Ukraine's orientation away from Europe and the U.S., so while "there will definitely be a getting to know you phase," U.S. policy toward Ukraine is unlikely to change significantly.

Go deeper

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.
45 mins ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.

Court rules Minnesota absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Election Day

An election judge drops a ballot in a ballot box at a drive through drop-off for absentee ballots in Minneapolis. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

An appeals court on Thursday ruled that Minnesota absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

Why it matters: The ruling, which comes just five days before the election, blocks the state's plan to count absentee ballots arriving late so long as they're postmarked by Nov. 3 and delivered within a week of the election. Now those ballots must be set aside and marked late.

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