President Donald Trump has dangled a promise to get a weary nation “back to normal” as he looked to campaign past the political damage of the devastating coronavirus pandemic.
It was a rose-tinted pitch in sharp contrast to Democratic rival Joe Biden, who pledged to level with America about tough days still ahead after Tuesday’s election.
In a campaign that has been dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than 227,000 Americans and staggered the economy, the candidates’ clashing messages stood as a reflection of their leadership styles and policy prescriptions for a suffering nation.
President Trump and Mr Biden both spent Friday crisscrossing the Mid-west, the hardest-hit part of the nation in the latest surge of virus cases.
President Trump was in Michigan and Mr Biden in Iowa before they both held events in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
With four days until the election and more than 83 million votes already cast, time is running out for President Trump and Mr Biden to change the race framed largely around the incumbent’s handling of the pandemic.
Mr Biden is leading most national polls and has a narrow advantage in many of the critical battlegrounds that could decide the race.
President Trump, billing himself as an optimist, says the nation has “turned the corner” from the outbreak that still kills about 1,000 Americans each day.
He speaks hopefully of coming treatments and potential vaccines that have yet to receive approval.
Mr Biden dismisses President Trump’s talk as a siren song that can only prolong the virus, and pledges a nationwide focus on reinstituting measures meant to slow the spread of the disease.
“He said a long dark winter,” President Trump said at a rally in Michigan. “Oh that’s great, that’s wonderful. Just what our country needs is a long dark winter and a leader who talks about it.”
President Trump’s rallies, which draw thousands of supporters, have served as representations of the sort of “reopening” he has been preaching.
With a lack of masks and social distancing, they flout state and local guidelines that he deems too onerous as he speaks as though the virus has largely disappeared.
President Trump and his aides speak openly about catering to the support of those “fed up” by state restrictions, and he has encouraged chants among his supporters calling for the imprisonment of local officials who have instituted them.
Mr Biden, for his part, referenced President Trump’s comments last summer that the virus “is what it is”. He told supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, that “it is what it is because he is who he is. These guys are something else, man.”
Friday marked the beginning of the critical final stretch before the election. President Trump’s closing sprint includes four stops in Pennsylvania on Saturday and nearly a dozen events in the final 48 hours across states he carried in 2016.
Mr Biden, after visiting Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota on Friday, will hit Michigan on Saturday, where he will hold a joint rally with former president Barack Obama.
Mr Biden will close out his campaign on Monday in a familiar battleground: Pennsylvania, the state where he was born and the one he’s visited more than any other in his campaign.
The Biden team announced the candidate, his wife Jill, running mate Sen Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, plan to “fan out across all four corners of the state”.