US elections: Trump, Biden push for last-minute support ahead of presidential vote

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US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden campaigned on Friday across Midwestern battleground states where the coronavirus has roared back, hunting for support as the White House race entered its final weekend.

With four days left until Tuesday’s election, Trump held a rally in Michigan ahead of planned stops in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Biden visited Iowa before heading to Wisconsin and Minnesota on his busiest day of campaigning yet.

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“A vote for me is to keep and create auto jobs and all sorts of jobs in Michigan, where they belong,” Trump said in Waterford Township outside Detroit, touting his stewardship of the economy and warning workers in the state’s auto-making industry that Biden’s policies would threaten their jobs.

In Iowa, where polls show him running close to Trump, Biden said the president’s failure to contain the pandemic had cost lives and sent the economy into a tailspin.

“One in six businesses is now out of business because he won’t act,” Biden said at a drive-in rally at the Iowa state fairgrounds in Des Moines, where a pair of bald eagles circled overhead as he wrapped up.

“We cannot afford four more years of Donald Trump,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 229,000 people in the United States and cost millions more their jobs, has dominated the final days of the campaign.

Trump has played down the health crisis for months, telling supporters in recent weeks that the country is “turning the corner” even as cases surge. Biden has warned of a “dark winter” ahead and promised a renewed effort to contain the virus.

Trump trails Biden in national opinion polls, partly because of widespread disapproval of his handling of the pandemic.

Opinion polls in the most competitive states that will decide the election have shown a closer contest.

The focus on the upper Midwest underlined the region’s importance in the race. Michigan and Wisconsin were two of the three historically Democratic industrial states, along with Pennsylvania, that narrowly voted for the Republican Trump in 2016, delivering him an upset victory.

‘Don’t take anything for granted’

Minnesota, which has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972, is one of the few Democratic states that Trump is trying to flip this year. Biden has held a steady lead in opinion polls in Minnesota and said his visit was not a sign he was worried about the state.

“I don’t take anything for granted. We’re going to work for every single vote until the last minute,” he told reporters in his home state of Delaware before boarding a plane for the Midwest.

Biden, running mate Kamala Harris and their spouses will spend their last day of campaigning on Monday in Pennsylvania, enabling them to hit all four corners of that closely divided state in the race’s final hours, the campaign said.

The pandemic and an extraordinary level of enthusiasm have prompted Americans to vote early in unprecedented numbers.

More than 85 million votes have been cast either by mail or in person, more than 62 percent of the total number of votes in the entire 2016 election, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.

In Texas, a traditionally Republican state where polls show Biden and Trump close, more than 9 million people have cast ballots, eclipsing total turnout from 2016, the Texas secretary of state’s office said. Texas is the second state, along with Hawaii, to already surpass its 2016 total.

The deluge of mail-in ballots makes it likely that the winner of several states, including major battlegrounds such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, will not be clear on Tuesday night.

Election officials expect vote-tallying to take days.

On Thursday, a federal appeals court barred Minnesota election officials from implementing a plan to count ballots arriving up to a week after Election Day as long as they were postmarked by next Tuesday.

Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that mail-in ballots are susceptible to fraud, and has more recently argued that only the results available on election night should count.

Early voting data show that far more Democrats have voted by mail, while Republicans are expected to turn out in greater numbers on Tuesday.

This means preliminary results from states like Pennsylvania that do not begin counting mail-in ballots until Election Day could show Trump in the lead before flipping as more Democratic-heavy ballots are added, a phenomenon some have called the “red mirage” and the “blue shift.”

Several Pennsylvania counties have said they will not begin counting mail-in ballots until Wednesday.

Read more: US elections: Biden has 89 percent chance of beating Trump, poll projects