Trump charges into battleground states despite rising virus numbers

Trump charges into battleground states despite rising virus numbers
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally (Alex Brandon/AP)

President Donald Trump is embarking on a final-week charge through key states ahead of the election, overlooking a surge of coronavirus cases in the US and a fresh outbreak in his own White House.

His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, is holding far fewer events in an effort to demonstrate that he’s taking the worsening pandemic seriously.

The final days of the campaign show the starkly different approaches each camp has taken to address the worst public health crisis in a century — with risks for each candidate.

“It’s a choice between a Trump boom or a Biden lockdown,” President Trump claimed in Pennsylvania.

For the president, the full-speed-ahead strategy could spread the virus in places that are already setting new records and leave him appearing aloof to the consequences.

And if Mr Biden comes up short in the election, his lower-key travel schedule will surely come under scrutiny as a bad choice.

Both men are making points with their travel plans. President Trump is holding three events in Pennsylvania alone, suggesting he is on the defence in a state that he won in 2016 and that will be critical to his re-election.

Mr Biden, meanwhile, is demonstrating more confidence with signals that he is hoping to expand his campaign map.

Though the Democrat was remaining close on Monday to his Delaware home, on Tuesday he will visit Georgia, a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992.

He is dispatching his running mate, Kamala Harris, later this week to Texas, which has not backed a Democrat for the White House since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

With more than a third of the expected ballots in the election already cast, it could become increasingly challenging for President Trump and Mr Biden to reshape the race.

But both men are fighting for any endgame advantage. Mr Biden is leading President Trump in most national polls and has an advantage, though narrower, in many key battlegrounds.

(PA Graphics)

While the final week of the campaign is colliding with deepening concerns about the Covid crisis in far-flung parts of the US, President Trump is anxious for voters to focus on almost anything else.

He is worried that he will lose if the election becomes a referendum on his handling of the pandemic. Mr Biden, meanwhile, is working to ensure the race is just that, hitting President Trump on the virus and presenting himself as a safer, more stable alternative.

The stakes were clear this past weekend as the White House became the locus for a second outbreak of the virus in a month. Several close aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive, including his chief of staff, Marc Short.

Mr Pence, though, was insistent on maintaining his aggressive political calendar, even though he was deemed a “close contact,” claiming the status of an “essential employee”.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (Andrew Harnik/AP)

With Election Day just over a week away, average deaths per day across the country are up 10% over the past two weeks, from 721 to nearly 794 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Confirmed infections per day are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.

The latest national outbreak has provide a potent sign of the divergent approaches the Trump and Biden campaigns have taken to the virus.

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that “we’re not going to control the pandemic” and the focus should be on containment and treatment.

Mr Biden, in a statement, said Meadows’ comments continued with the Trump administration waving “the white flag of defeat” in the face of the virus.

President Trump fired back as he arrived in Pennsylvania, saying Mr Biden, with his concerns about the virus spread, has “waved a white flag on life”.

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