U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden have one last chance to make their case to voters in critical battleground states on Monday, the final full day of a presidential campaign that has laid bare their dramatically different visions for tackling the country’s pressing problems and for the office of the presidency itself.
The candidates are seeking to lead a country at a crossroads — gripped by both a historic pandemic that is raging anew in nearly every corner of the country and a reckoning over race.
More than 95 million people have already voted, according to a tally from the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, and it could take longer than usual for elections officials to process the historic surge in early and mail-in ballots.
Both campaigns insist they have a pathway to victory, though Biden’s options for picking up the required 270 electoral college votes are more plentiful. Trump is banking on a surge of enthusiasm from his most loyal supporters while also threatening legal action to stop vote counting in some crucial states, including Pennsylvania.
The Republican president’s final day has him sprinting through five rallies, from North Carolina to Wisconsin. Biden, meanwhile, was devoting most of his time to Pennsylvania, where a win would leave Trump with an exceedingly narrow path. Biden was also dipping into Ohio, a show of confidence in a state where Trump won by eight percentage points four years ago.
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Heading into the closing 24 hours, Trump and Biden each painted the other as unfit for office and described the next four years in near-apocalyptic terms if the other were to win.
“The Biden plan will turn America into a prison state locking you down while letting the far-left rioters roam free to loot and burn,” Trump said Sunday at a rally in Iowa, one of the five he held in battleground states.
Biden said the U.S. was on the verge of putting “an end to a presidency that’s fanned the flames of hate.”
“When America is heard, I believe the message is going to be clear: It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home,” Biden said in Philadelphia, the biggest city in a state that could decide the presidency.
Biden defends Fauci after Trump suggests dismissal
As the candidates close out the campaign, the pandemic, which has killed more than 231,000 people in the U.S. and caused nearly 20 million to lose jobs, reached a new peak in infection rates, threatening yet another blow to lives and the livelihoods of voters.
Biden defended Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday after Trump suggested Sunday night he’d dismiss the nation’s top infectious disease expert after election day. During a rally in Opa-locka, Fla., the president expressed frustration that the surging virus cases remain prominent in the news, sparking chants of “Fire Fauci” from his supporters.
Trump replied, “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election.”
In response, Biden tweeted that “we need a president who actually listens to experts like Dr. Fauci.” Biden has sought to keep the presidential campaign focused on the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump has used the race’s final hours to accuse Biden of wanting to force the country back into a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
The election caps an extraordinary year that began with Trump’s impeachment and the near-collapse of Biden’s candidacy during the crowded Democratic primary, and then was fully reshaped by the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump threatens litigation over vote counting
A record number of votes have already been cast, through early voting or mail-in ballots, which could lead to delays in their tabulation. Trump has spent months claiming without evidence that the votes would be ripe for fraud while refusing to guarantee that he would honour the election result.
In the starkest terms yet, Trump on Sunday threatened litigation to stop the tabulation of ballots arriving after Election Day. As soon as polls closed in battlegrounds such as Pennsylvania, Trump said, “we’re going in with our lawyers.”
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It was unclear precisely what Trump meant. There is already an appeal pending at the Supreme Court over the counting of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania that are received in the mail in the three days after the election.
The state’s top court ordered the extension and the Supreme Court refused to block it, though conservative justices expressed interest in taking up the propriety of the three added days after the election. Those ballots are being kept separate in case the litigation goes forward. The issue could assume enormous importance if the late-arriving ballots could tip the outcome.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox & Friends on Monday that Trump and some aides “will be together … at the White House” for election night. Trump’s campaign had planned a traditional campaign party at his Washington, D.C., hotel.
But Trump said last week that he was considering other options, including staying at the White House, because D.C.’s coronavirus protocols would restrict the size of the gathering.
Last month, the campaign pushed out fundraising emails in the Republican president’s name offering donors the chance to enter a draw “to join Team Trump at the Election Night Party” in his “favourite hotel,” in Washington, suggesting he would use it as the backdrop for reacting to election results.
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