Two days before Election Day, President Donald Trump yesterday launched a sprint of campaigning across battleground states crucial to the outcome of the US election in an effort to defy the polls and fend off Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Trump, aiming to avoid becoming the first incumbent president to lose a re-election bid since fellow Republican George HW Bush in 1992, has a frenetic schedule for Sunday, with stops planned in Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Biden is due to campaign in Pennsylvania.
Biden’s national lead in opinion polls has stayed relatively steady in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has persisted. The former vice president was ahead 51 percentage points to 43 percentage points in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken Oct. 27-29.
According to a RealClearPolitics average of polls Biden is leading the race with 51.1 percentage points to 43.9 percentage points.
Trump faces what appears to be a narrow path to re-election. Polls show him close to Biden in enough battleground states that could give him the 270 votes needed to win in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the overall victor.
The race remains a toss-up in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls, while Trump trails by 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania and 9 percentage points in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Anita Dunn, a Biden campaign adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, “We feel confident about where we are.”
There already has been a record-setting number – 92 million – of early votes cast around the country, either in-person or by mail, a phenomenon expected to boost Biden’s chances.
The Trump campaign indicated it is banking on in-person voting on the election day to push the president over the top. Campaign adviser Jason Miller said Democrats have spent months stressing the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic and telling people it is not safe to go to the polls in person.
“Well, guess what? President Trump’s supporters are going to show up on Tuesday. Nothing is going to stop them,” Miller told ABC’s “This Week” program. “I think Democrats are going to look in the rear-view mirror and say, ‘This is probably what cost us the election.'”
Dunn dismissed Miller’s argument and said the record early voting numbers reflect enthusiasm not fear.
Biden, who has made hammering the president’s response to the pandemic a main theme of his speeches, was scheduled to campaign again in Pennsylvania, one of the most critical of the battleground states that Trump won in 2016.
On Sunday and Monday, Trump is due to stage 10 rallies – five a day – making it the campaign’s busiest stretch. On Monday his campaign has events planned in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and two in Michigan.
Trump will close out the two-day swing with a late-night rally on Monday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same location where he finished his campaign in 2016. In his unexpected victory four years ago, the wealthy businessman-turned-politician took Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states that for decades had gone in the Democratic column.
He offered a note of optimism early on Sunday, writing on Twitter, “Our numbers are looking VERY good all over.”
Weighing down Trump is a rising number of coronavirus infections in many parts of the country. The United States has recorded more than 9 million cases, with nearly 230,000 people dying from Covid-19. Trump, who withstood a personal bout with COVID-19, has played down the virus and has said his opponents are using the pandemic against him.
At a rally on Saturday in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Trump seemed to lament his close race with Biden, who he considers a weak opponent.
“This could only happen to me,” Trump said. “How could we be tied?”
Using some of his most urgent language yet, Trump warned of “bedlam in our country” if no clear winner emerges quickly in the election, saying, without evidence, that it could take weeks to sort out a result and that “very bad things” could happen in the interim.
Biden meanwhile told backers it was “time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home.”
To win again Trump has to chart a narrow path by triumphing in states he won in 2016, like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and Arizona, and holding at least one of the Midwestern states that he took four years ago, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin.
Some Republicans are pessimistic about Trump’s chances, believing he has too many states where his back is up against the wall.
Unexpected battlegrounds like Georgia and Texas, a large, traditionally conservative bastion now seen as a toss-up, have made the task more difficult for the incumbent. Polls show Trump still leads in Texas by 2.3 percentage points, but if he loses the state with 38 electoral votes his chance of winning the race will be in jeopardy.
Trump and his team believe polls undersell his level of support, and say that, thanks to a strong Republican get-out-the-vote effort, the incumbent will win.