An uncharacteristically subdued Donald Trump delivered a sombre message to Pennsylvania voters on Saturday as he kicked off a final blitz of swing state rallies — his last chance to hold on to the White House.
Mr Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden are making a final play for states Republicans carried in 2016. The former vice-president campaigned with ex-president Barack Obama in Michigan, while Mr Trump spent the day traversing Pennsylvania — a state his campaign sees as key to his political survival.
“Three days from now this is the state that will save the American dream,” Mr Trump told a smaller-than-usual crowd of supporters in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “On November 3rd we are going to win Pennsylvania and we are going to win four more years in that very beautiful White House.”
As of Saturday, over 90m ballots had already been cast in the election, according to US Elections Project, a database compiled by Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida. That is 65 per cent of the total votes cast in 2016, suggesting that 2020 turnout will eclipse that of four years ago. Early voting has shattered records as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country.
Earlier in the day, Mr Trump expressed optimism about Tuesday’s vote. “I think we’re doing extremely well with the votes,” Mr Trump told reporters on Saturday. “A big red wave has formed. We’re doing very well.”
However, the president was unusually sombre at his first rally in Bucks County, and polls show him trailing Mr Biden nationally and in key swing states, including Pennsylvania. Bucks County was the first of four campaign stops in the state for the president, while Mr Biden will spend the day there on Sunday and Monday.
According to a Financial Times analysis of polling data from RealClearPolitics, Mr Trump is trailing Mr Biden in Pennsylvania by more than 5 points after winning the state by just over 44,000 votes four years ago. Nationally, Mr Biden leads 51.8 per cent to 43.1 per cent.
Mr Biden and Mr Obama’s joint-appearances in Detroit and Flint, Michigan represent the first time that the former running mates have campaigned in person together in this election. Mr Obama waited to endorse Mr Biden after the end of the Democratic primary — around the same time that the coronavirus began to shut down the US, halting most campaign events.
The former president and vice-president have taken part in several virtual events together over the past few months, while Mr Obama has campaigned on Mr Biden’s behalf in Philadelphia, Miami and Orlando.
Mr Biden has focused the final days of his campaign on what he claims is Mr Trump’s disastrous response to Covid, as the number of cases spike across the country, particularly in the Midwest.
The number of new infections rose by 97,000 on Friday, the largest one-day jump since the start of the pandemic. Midwestern states led the way.
The sharp increase, which beat Thursday’s record of 88,400, took the weekly total for the US to 548,000 infections, a record for a seven-day period since the disease started spreading across the country in March, according to the Covid Tracking Project data. On average, the country has added more than 78,300 cases a day during the past week.
At his rally in Bucks County, Mr Trump suggested that his administration had not done a good job marketing its efforts in the pandemic, and warned that Mr Biden would shut down the country and economy, were he to be elected.
“That’s his only plan to make you a prisoner in your own home, a prisoner in your own country, and under the Biden lockdown, the recovery will be totally killed. The economy will collapse . . . There will be no graduations, there will be no weddings, no Thanksgivings, no Christmases, no Easters, no Fourth of Julys. There will be nothing,” Mr Trump declared.