President Donald Trump cast his vote Saturday in Florida ahead of another sentencing day with three campaign meetings as he works to close the gap with Joe Biden and pull off a resounding 2016-style victory on Nov. 3.
“I voted for a guy named Trump,” he said, blinking a smile after removing his black mask as he emerged from a polling station in soft West Palm Beach, not far from the Mar-a-Lago resort, where he officially came home last year.
He thus became one of nearly 55 million Americans who cast early ballots in a year where coronavirus has made personal voting problematic.
“It was a very safe vote. Much safer than when you send a vote, I can tell you that,” said Trump, who insists without giving evidence that voting by submission leads to fraud.
VOTED ONLY. A great honor!
– Donald J.Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2020
Continuing his frantic pace, the president was to jump-scotch later in the day from North Carolina to Ohio to Wisconsin – returning to the White House just minutes before midnight – as he works furiously to make up for lost ground.
But the president’s efforts are inevitably overshadowed by a grim reality that Biden seized: the United States set a daily record for new Covid-19 cases on Friday, nearly 83,000, with a further increase expected when cold weather arrives.
“President Trump knew the severity of this virus and could not tell the American people the truth,” the former vice president said in a statement Saturday. He said Trump was “unwilling and unable to do the hard work to get it under control.”
Obama campaigns in Florida
Biden, who has been more restrained – and pandemically aware – in his campaign planned two run-in incidents in Pennsylvania, another key state.
The Biden campaign was also using a key surrogate, former president and former Biden chief Barack Obama, to speak later in the day in Miami.
With nearly 55 million people already voting early, Biden has a strong lead in national polls, and a narrower lead in many battlefield states like Florida, which typically determines the winner of the U.S. presidential election.
The drama in the final televised Trump-Biden TV debate on Thursday was considered unlikely to move the needle significantly.
But Democrats are not forgetting the astonishing sadness of Trump that was pulled out in 2016 when he defeated favorite Hillary Clinton.
The president’s current weary travels aim to repeat that feat.
Lack of leadership
On Friday, Trump targeted the voice of the politically powerful seniors in Florida and told a crowd at the retirement community The Villages that all Biden is talking about is “Covid, Covid, Covid” to “scare people.”
“We will quickly end this pandemic, this terrible plague,” he said.
In fact, the virus has claimed more than 224,000 American lives with no end in sight.
Referring to Biden’s warning of a “dark winter” ahead, Trump insisted that the country instead “approach the light at the end of the tunnel.”
He then revolved around his own intimidating tactics, claiming that Biden would get rid of hordes of illegal immigrants, including “criminals and rapists and even murderers.”
While Biden has been campaigning with lower keys, even the 77-year-old Democrat is increasing activity in the last stretch.
In his home state of Delaware on Friday, he delivered a speech on economic recovery from the pandemic, slammed Trump’s record and promised – as Trump has done – that he would provide a safe coronavirus vaccine to anyone who wants it.
“We are more than eight months into the crisis and the president still does not have a plan,” Biden claimed. “He’s given up. He resigned from you, from your family, from America.
Pivot too late?
Trump’s campaign has been turned upside down by the coronavirus crisis, which a majority of voters say he has handled poorly.
In addition to the national catastrophe, Trump’s re-election offerings have been constantly hampered by his own irregular and often bad temper.
At Thursday’s final televised debate in Nashville, the president turned to the more straight-chilled leader that aides have long hoped Americans will see.
But whether this shift from the usually blue marking of insults, complaints, and conspiracy theories will be enough at this point is an open question.
During the debate, Trump seized on Biden’s pledge to “overtake” away from the highly polluting oil industry – potentially a hurtful uptake in oil-producing states like Pennsylvania and Texas.
But Biden himself scored points by raising questions about Trump’s possession of a bank account in China and his failure to disclose his tax returns.