Pressing against stiff headwinds from Covid-19, President Donald Trump steered toward what he hoped was safer political ground with the US economy Thursday, as Democratic rival Joe Biden kept up his assault on Trump’s handling of the virus.
Campaigning hours apart in Florida, a state all but essential to the Republican’s pathway to another term, both candidates urged supporters to get to polling places in person, even as a tropical storm interrupted early voting in the Southeast.
The shift to focusing on in-person voting next Tuesday — or sooner, where possible — comes as over 80 million Americans have already cast their ballots, absentee or by mail.
While the Election Day vote traditionally favors Republicans and early votes tend toward Democrats, Covid-19, which has killed more than 227,000 people in the US , has injected new uncertainty.
“You hold the power. If Florida goes blue, it’s over,” Biden told supporters on Thursday.
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Trump was celebrating a new federal estimate that the economy grew at a stunning 33.1 per cent annual rate in the July-September quarter — by far the largest quarterly gain on record — making up ground from its epic plunge in the spring, when the eruption of the coronavirus closed businesses and threw tens of millions out of work.
“So glad this great GDP number came out before November 3rd,” Trump tweeted, predicting a dire reversal if Biden wins.
But economists warned the economy is weakening again and facing renewed threats as confirmed viral cases surge, hiring has slowed and federal stimulus help has mostly run out.
Biden said, “The recovery is slowing if not stalling, and the recovery that is happening is helping those at the top but leaving tens of millions of working families and small businesses behind.”
The Democrat is framing his closing arguments to voters on what he describes as responsible management of the pandemic. Trump, instead, is arguing that Biden would undo the economic gains of his administration with stricter, virus-targeting public health controls — though those are largely what scientists are calling for.
“The people are tired. They can’t do it anymore,” Trump said of lockdowns.
Trump and Biden both visited the western end of the Florida’s Interstate 4 corridor, an area known for rapid residential growth, sprawling suburbs and its status as an ever-changing, hard-fought battleground during presidential elections.
Trump was to hit another sunbelt battleground state, North Carolina, on Thursday evening but canceled his event in Fayetteville as Tropical Storm Zeta brought wind gusts reaching 50 mph to the area.
Biden was forced to wrap his speech up early at a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds after a brief shower turned into a torrential downpour.
Trump was yesterday expected to visit three upper Midwest states, and hold a trio of rallies today in Pennsylvania before launching on a whirlwind tour of battlegrounds including Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania in the closing 48 hours of the race.
Biden, meanwhile, heads to three more states Trump won in 2016: Iowa, Wisconsin and then Michigan, where he’ll hold a joint rally with former President Barack Obama today. Biden was expected to visit Minnesota yesterday, hours before a Trump rally in one of the few Clinton-voting states Trump is hoping to pick up this year.
Corona’s consequences were escalating, with deaths climbing in 39 states and an average of 805 people dying daily nationwide — up from 714 two weeks ago. A spike in cases sent shockwaves through financial markets, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop over 900 points on Wednesday.
Trump, who frequently lauds rising markets, failed to mention the decline. Stock prices recovered somewhat Thursday.
Trump is betting on the GOP’s vast field and data operations, and efforts known as “poll flushing” — monitoring precinct lists for who has and has not yet voted — to provide a late boost on Election Day. The Republican National Committee, with over 3,000 field staff and claims more than 2.5 million volunteers, will use that information to reach out to Trump supporters to ensure they vote.
Nowhere may those efforts be more important than in Florida. Without the battleground state’s 29 electoral votes, Trump’s path to victory is exceptionally difficult.