Biden goes on the offensive in Republican country, Trump seeks to defend turf

Democratic candidate Joe Biden went on the offensive on Tuesday with rallies in Georgia, hoping to breach the Republican stronghold and expand the battle ground as President Donald Trump played defence, holding rallies in key states that won him the presidency in 2016.

“You know, there aren’t a lot of pundits who would have guessed four years ago that the Democratic candidate for president in 2020 would be campaigning in Georgia one week before Election Day,” Biden told supporters at a drive-in rally in Atlanta, the second of his Georgia rallies.

He added: “But we do—because something is happening.”

FiveThirtyEight has Biden ahead of Trump by 1.1 percentage points, in the average of polls in Georgia, but RealClearPolitics has him trailing the president by 0.4 points. It’s a tie, in effect, but in a state that has not voted Democratic in presidential elections since 1992, when Bill Clinton took it in a three-way fight in which an independent had split the Republican votes with sitting President George H W Bush.

The former vice-president believes he has a chance in Georgia, with down-ballot implications for two Senate races. And as a sign of his growing confidence, he plans to also campaign in Iowa, on Friday, just three days before close of polling — Trump won the state by 9.5 percentage points in 2016 but now trails by a thin margin.

The American president held rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin — the two states that won him the presidency in 2016 with Pennsylvania — and Nebraska, a conservative state that comes into play because of its unique system (which it shares only with Maine) of granting electoral college votes by congressional districts, not winner-takes-all.

The rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin came amidst a surge in Covid-19 there. The president delivered the same narrative that he has before — he diminished the epidemic claiming it is waning and ridiculed the coverage in the media saying it will be over the day after polling.

It’s all about “Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid …” on television now, he said at a rally in Lansing, Michigan, venting his frustration with the epidemic. He also framed the election as a choice between the “Trump recovery” and “Biden depression”, claiming his Democratic rival will shut down the country again, pushing it into depression.

Trump is trailing Biden in both Wisconsin and Michigan — by 7.1 percentage points and 8.3 points respectively in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls and by 5.5 points and 9 points in the RealClearPolitics average. His path to victory will shrink dramatically without these states.

With just seven days to the close of polling, both candidates deployed their surrogates across the battleground states to keep up the momentum. First Lady Melania Trump addressed her first rally this cycle in Chester, Pennsylvania, the most critical of the key states this election.

And former President Barack Obama was in Orlando, Florida, where he launched a scathing attack on Trump. “What’s his closing argument? That people are too focused on Covid,” he said at a rally, referencing the president’s complaints about the epidemic. “He said this at one of his rallies. ‘Covid, Covid, Covid’ he’s complaining,” Obama said. “He’s jealous of Covid’s media coverage.”

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