WASHINGTON, Mich. (Reuters) – Two days before Election Day, President Donald Trump on Sunday launched a campaign sprint across U.S. battleground states starting with a chilly outdoor rally in Michigan, a state crucial to his election chances as he seeks 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 H.W. Bush in 1992, has a frenetic schedule for Sunday, with stops also planned in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Biden is due to campaign in Pennsylvania.
Buffeted by snow flurries in Washington, a town north of Detroit, Trump wore his trademark red cap emblazoned with the words “Make America Great Again” as he addressed a boisterous crowd on a cold and blustery morning.
After the crowd loudly chanted, “We love you” Trump responded, “I love you, too. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here because it’s freezing out here.”
Trump predicted he would repeat his 2016 victory in Michigan and touted his efforts to create auto jobs, a key issue for the auto manufacturing state.
“We brought back your car industry. Your car industry was finished. You would have had nothing left,” Trump said.
Biden has held on to a steady lead in national opinion polls as a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 Americans and battered the economy has weighed on Trump’s campaign. The former vice president was ahead 51% to 43% in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken Oct. 27-29.
Polls show Trump still close 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, Reuters/Ipsos polls showed, while Trump trails by 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania and 9 percentage points in Michigan and Wisconsin.
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In his 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the real estate developer and reality TV personality-turned-politician took Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as Michigan, states that for decades had gone in the Democratic column.
“You better get out there and vote,” Trump told the crowd.
Anita Dunn, a Biden campaign adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, “We feel confident about where we are.” The Democratic governors of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all said they were upbeat about Biden’s chances in their states. Ohio’s Republican governor predicted Trump would win the state by a couple of percentage points.
Biden is scheduled to campaign again on Sunday and Monday in Pennsylvania, the state where he was born, with events in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Biden also added a stop in Ohio on Monday, indicating his campaign views that state as winnable.
Trump is due to stage 10 rallies – five a day – on Sunday and Monday, the campaign’s busiest stretch, with Monday appearances planned in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and back in Michigan.
Hitting on familiar themes, Trump portrayed himself as running against “a corrupt politician” and “a dummy and a half” in Biden as well as a “left-wing mob” and Democratic “maniacs.”
CLOSE RACE IN TEXAS
The contest has proven unexpectedly close in Texas, typically a reliable Republican state.
On Monday, responding to a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs including a conservative activist and a Republican state legislator, a federal judge in Houston will hold an emergency hearing on whether Harris County officials unlawfully allowed drive-through voting during the pandemic and should toss more than 100,000 votes in the Democratic-leaning area.
After a caravan of vehicles bearing Trump campaign flags surrounded a Biden campaign bus carrying campaign staff on a Texas highway on Friday, Trump on Saturday retweeted a video of the incident and wrote: “I LOVE TEXAS!” The Biden campaign said it canceled two events following the incident.
Biden began his day at a church in his home state of Delaware. As he entered, anti-abortion and pro-Trump demonstrators told him to repent for the sake of the soul of his late son who is buried at the church.
A record-setting 93 million early votes have cast either in-person or by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a phenomenon expected to boost Biden’s chances.
Trump has made unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots – a regular feature in U.S. elections – are rife with fraud and has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if the results show he has lost. Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller told ABC’s “This Week” the president is banking on in-person voting on Tuesday to push the president over the top.
Miller also questioned the integrity of the election, saying, “If you speak with many smart Democrats, they believe President Trump will be ahead on election night, probably getting 280 electoral (votes), somewhere in that range. And then they’re going to try to steal it back after the election.”
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