Donald Trump vowed to again defy the polls as he sprinted through five swing states Sunday in a blitz of campaigning against Joe Biden with just two days left before a US presidential election that has already mobilized a record number of early voters.
The last-minute scramble came as polls showed Biden maintaining his overall lead but with some slight tightening in key states including Pennsylvania, where he leads by four points, and Florida, now a tossup, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls.
“We’re now leading,” Trump insisted before a raucous rally of supporters in Washington Township, Michigan. “Look, we’re leading in Florida. We’re leading in Georgia… They say it’s a very close race in Texas. I don’t think so. They did that four years ago and I won in a landslide.”
Snow flurries fell on Trump and the crowd as he shivered and joked repeatedly about the brisk winds and freezing conditions.
He warned, in a state long dependent on manufacturing, that Biden had “spent 47 years outsourcing your jobs, opening your borders and sacrificing American blood and treasure in endless foreign wars.”
Biden and his wife Jill began the day attending Mass at their Catholic church near their home in Wilmington, Delaware. A small group of protesters shouted at him as he arrived and left.
The former vice president spent the rest of the day in a neighboring state that is vital to both men’s prospects: Pennsylvania, where Biden planned two events in Philadelphia.
He continued to hammer the president over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic following the country’s worst week ever, with more than 1,000 Americans dying daily.
“More than 230,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 — and Donald Trump has given up on trying to get the virus under control,” Biden said Sunday on Twitter. “He may have quit on you, but I promise I never will.”
Yet the president has continued to shrug off the seriousness of Covid-19 — going so far as to accuse doctors of inflating virus death tolls for profit.
Trump also continued his extraordinarily open conflict with doctor Anthony Fauci.
In an interview in the Washington Post, the respected epidemiologist said bluntly that without “an abrupt change” in the country’s public health practices, Americans face “a whole lot of hurt ahead.”
But he praised the Biden campaign which — in contrast to Trump’s mass rallies — follows health guidance in its public events.
Fauci’s remarks drew a sharp rebuke from a White House spokesman, Judd Deere, who called it “unacceptable” for Fauci “to choose three days before an election t play politics.”
Meantime, both parties publicly exuded confidence amid their final dashes to the finish line.
“We’re going to know on Election Day that a record number of people have probably turned out to vote in this election because they want to change,” Biden campaign advisor Anita Dunn said on ABC.
“They want a leader who is going to unite the country, not divide it.”
Trump campaign advisor Jason Miller predicted on ABC that Trump would sweep Southern states and would need just one of four key Midwestern states — Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan — to “be re-elected, president.”
Trump started an exhausting Sunday schedule with successive rallies in Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, and Georgia before an unusual 11:00 pm rally in Florida.
On Monday, both Trump and Biden will campaign again in Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016 by less than one percentage point. Trump will later return to Michigan, and Biden reportedly is adding a last-minute stop in Cleveland, Ohio.
With a surge of mail-in ballots to be counted and legal challenges likely, Pennsylvania is expected to be a focus of prolonged uncertainty for days after the election.
Democrats have dominated early voting, but polls show many Republicans plan to vote in-person on Tuesday.
Underscoring the high stakes, a record 93 million early votes have already been cast, according to the nonpartisan US Elections Project.
Trump, who has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots are open to fraud, warned Saturday of “bedlam in our country” if no clear winner emerges quickly.
Biden meanwhile told backers it was “time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home.”
The election takes place in a deeply divided country, with feelings so raw that gun sales have surged in some areas. Businesses in some cities, including Washington, are protectively boarding windows, and police are preparing for the possibility of violence.
– ‘Life or death‘ –
On Saturday, Biden was joined on the campaign trail in Michigan by his former boss, Barack Obama.
In Trump’s 2016 victory, he took advantage of low turnout rates among Black Michigan voters. As Biden campaigns with the nation’s first Black president, he clearly hopes to change that.
Biden, despite his more cautious and reserved campaign style, has recently pushed Trump onto the back foot in traditionally conservative battlegrounds like Georgia and Texas.