(Headline USA) With Election Day just three weeks away, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden concentrated Tuesday on battleground states both see as critical to clinching an Electoral College victory, tailoring their travel to best motivate voters who could cast potentially decisive ballots.
Biden was in Florida courting seniors, betting that a voting bloc that buoyed Trump four years ago.
But the soon-to-be-78-year-old sees a potential pathway with the older voters, including many retirees from places like New York that were hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. It was Biden’s third visit to the state in a month, after making targeted appeals to other communities, including veterans and Latinos.
Biden said at a senior center in Pembroke Pines—about 20 miles from Fort Lauderdale—that in the eyes of President Trump, “you’re expendable, you’re forgettable, you’re virtually nobody.”
The “only senior Donald Trump seems to care about” is himself, Biden added.
After frequently criticizing Trump for not doing enough to promote wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus, Biden was wearing two masks, an N-95 underneath a blue surgical mask, as he deplaned in Florida. Later in the day, he switched to his normal mode of donning just one.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, said in a statement that “Biden is playing politics with people’s lives over the virus.”
Introducing Biden, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz noted that “neither of these men will walk into the White House without the blessing of Florida seniors.”
“Much is made of the rise of the youth vote, and thank God for it,” the Florida congresswoman said. “But it’s residents 65 or older who still swing elections in the Sunshine State.”
Biden also was holding a voter mobilization rally in the heavily African American community of Miramar. His swing coincided with a $500,000 donation from billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg to increase Democratic turnout in Miami–Dade County.
That included a controversial and legally iffy pledge to cover the debts of convicted felons. Under a 2018 voter referendum heavily backed by billionaire George Soros, many ex-cons saw their voting rights restored.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis later amended the policy saying that they first must have repaid all debts—including financial debts from judgments and court fees.
The president was staging an evening rally in Pennsylvania, Biden’s native state, where he sought to remind voters of Biden’s past pledge to end fracking in areas where the economy is heavily dependent on energy.
Biden previously told supporters that he would ban fossil fuels—presumably to include natural gas—but he has since flip–flopped on the stance after eyeing the political landscape. He now claims to have proposed only barring new leases on federal land, a fraction of U.S. fracking operations.
Biden “has handed control to the socialists, Marxists and left-wing extremists,” Trump planned to say, according to excerpts released by the White House.
“If he wins, the radical left will be running the country—they are addicted to power, and God help us if they get it.”
The president also campaigned in Sanford, Florida, on Monday and will head back to the state on Friday.
Biden’s campaign believes it can take the presidency without Florida’s 29 electoral votes, but it wants to lock up the state to pad a margin of victory over Trump in the hopes of avoiding any post-election tensions.
Many have questioned the legitimacy of an election where many people will cast mail-in ballots during the pandemic, and even Biden’s own surrogates have warned that election night itself may look like a Trump landslide before the absentee votes are counted.
Trump narrowly flipped Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2016, resulting in his surprise Electoral College landslide against Hillary Clinton.
However, aides have concluded that Michigan may be out of reach amid the pandemic and that Trump faces a stubborn deficit in Wisconsin. Even if he wins there, though, he may still need to make up Electoral College ground if Biden claims Florida or the traditionally red state of Arizona, both of which are too close to call.
On the flip side, Trump has seen gains in Minnesota as voters rural voters grow increasingly outraged over the race riots that have led both to rampant crime and calls to defund police in Minneapolis.
The president’s travel this week reflect a growing need to play defense, however, in once solid red states where a diaspora from blue states like New York and California has now shifted the calculus against thim.
Such is the case in several other must-win battleground states such as North Carolina, Iowa and Georgia in light of recent polling that shows Biden improving.
With 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania is anchored by Philadelphia to the east, Pittsburgh to the west. But the rest of the state is largely rural, comprised of small cities and towns where Trump ran up the score four years ago.
He will need to again, in even greater numbers, as his prospects have slipped since 2016 in places like vote-rich suburban Philadelphia, where he underperformed by past Republican measures.
The city drew his ire in the recent debate amid a federal probe into a systemic voting fraud ring and other measures that seemed designed to stack the deck in Democrats’ favor.
Trump’s rally is at the airport in Johnstown in Cambria County, a historically coal and steel area that narrowly backed Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. But it has trended Republican for the past three decades and, in the 2016 election, Trump scored a 37 percentage-point victory. The area is also substantially whiter and has lower median incomes and lower rates of college-degree attainment than the rest of Pennsylvania.
Given that his local support was so strong four years, it might be hard to find additional votes to make up for losses elsewhere, said Ryan Costello, a Trump-bashing former Republican congressman from Democratic-trending Chester County, southwest of Philadelphia.
“I don’t accept the premise that he will keep his deficit in the suburbs to what it was, or even similar, in 2016,” Costello, who retired from Congress in 2019, said of Trump.
Biden visited Johnstown late last month. The former vice president has tried to cast himself as a champion of working-class voters while accusing Trump of focusing on stock market returns and Park Avenue values.
Despite the pandemic, Trump’s campaign has prioritized in-person events and aggressive door-knocking as it tries to turn out new and low propensity voters, including more members of the white working class who may have backed Democrats in the past but now favor the president.
Republicans point to an aging population and a shrinking voter-registration edge for Democrats, down 20% from 2016’s election to 717,000, according to the latest Pennsylvania data.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press