President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden rallied supporters on Thursday in the closely fought state of Florida, highlighting their contrasting approaches to the resurgent coronavirus pandemic as the clock ticks down to Election Day.
Opinion polls show Biden with a significant edge nationally, but with a tighter lead in the battleground states that play a decisive role in the final result.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed Trump had essentially moved into a tie with Biden in Florida, with 49% saying they would vote for Biden and 47% for the president.
With its 29 electoral votes, the state is a major prize in Tuesday’s election. Trump’s victory in Florida in 2016 was vital to his surprise election win.
Thousands of people, many of them without masks, crowded together at an outdoor event in Tampa on Thursday to hear Trump mock his opponent, the former vice president.
“Could you imagine losing to this guy? Could you imagine?” Trump said, adding he was confident of winning a second term.
Hours later, Biden arrived in the same city to hold a “drive-in” rally, where attendees remained in or near their cars to avoid the possible spread of the virus, his second such event of the day in Florida. Supporters at the event wore masks, as required by Biden’s campaign, although they did not always maintain social distancing.
Biden criticized Trump for holding what he termed a “super-spreader event” and attacked the president’s repeated assertion that the country had moved past the worst days of the pandemic, despite rising cases nationwide.
“Donald Trump has waved the white flag, abandoned our families and surrendered to this virus,” Biden said. “But the American people never give up; we never give in.”
Shadow of the pandemic
The pandemic that has upended life across the United States, killed more than 227,000 people and caused millions of job losses, is roaring back.
On Thursday more than 91,000 new US infections were recorded, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, the highest 24-hour total since the pandemic began.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the threat of the pandemic, saying this week his opponents and the news media would stop paying attention to it right after the election, even as leaders in Europe scramble to contain a second wave and public health experts predict a grim winter in the United States.
Officials in Gastonia, North Carolina, warned people who attended an Oct. 21 Trump rally there that two people who took part tested positive for Covid-19.
Trump’s own White House coronavirus task force is warning of a persistent and broad spread of Covid-19 in the western half of the United States, including in a number of states that will play an important role in the election.
The Republican president hailed figures released on Thursday that showed the US economy grew at an unrivaled annualized pace of 33% in the third quarter because of a huge federal pandemic relief program.
“So glad this great GDP number came out before November 3rd,” Trump wrote in a tweet. It is doubtful, however, whether economic data this close to Election Day can influence the outcome. Biden can point out that US output remains below its level in the fourth quarter of 2019, before the pandemic hit.
Following his own bout with Covid-19, the president has had a hectic campaign schedule, holding as many as three rallies a day in different states, while Biden has taken a more measured tack, spending two days this week close to his home base of Delaware.
A planned Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for Thursday night was postponed because of a wind advisory stemming from Hurricane Zeta, Trump’s campaign said. The president plans to return to the Midwest on Friday, campaigning in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In all, he plans to visit 10 states in the last days of the campaign and will host 11 rallies in the final 48 hours, a campaign official said.
Source: Reuters, AFP