US President Donald Trump embarked Monday on a final-week charge through nearly a dozen states ahead of the election, overlooking a surge of coronavirus cases in the US and a fresh outbreak in his own White House.
Relatively, 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 are crystalizing the starkly different approaches Trump and Biden have taken to address the worst public health crisis in a century – with risks for each candidate.
For Trump, 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 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. Trump was holding three events in Pennsylvania alone on Monday, suggesting he’s on defense in a state that he won in 2016 and that will be critical to his reelection.
Biden, meanwhile, is demonstrating more confidence with signals that he’s hoping to expand his campaign map.
Though Biden was remaining close on Monday to his Wilmington, Delaware, home, on Tuesday he will visit Georgia, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992. He’s dispatching his running mate, Kamala Harris, later this week to Texas, which hasn’t 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 Trump and Biden to reshape the contours of the race. But both men are fighting for any endgame advantage.
Biden is leading Trump in most national polls and has an advantage, though narrower, in many key battlegrounds.
While the final week of the campaign is colliding with deepening concerns about the COVID crisis in far-flung parts of the US, Trump is anxious for voters to focus on almost anything else. He’s worried that he will lose if the election becomes a referendum on his handling of the pandemic. Biden, meanwhile, is working to ensure the race is just that, hitting 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. 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.”