By Steve Holland, Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday launches his final, two-day sprint of campaigning across the battleground states of the 2020 election in a dramatic bid to defy the polls and win a come-from-behind victory over Democrat Joe Biden.
Facing what appears to be a narrow path to re-election, Trump is to make stops in states likely to prove pivotal in deciding if he will remain in the White House for four more years or whether he will become the first president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to fail in a bid for a second term.
Biden’s national lead over the Republican president has stayed relatively steady in recent months as the public health crisis over coronavirus has persisted. He is ahead 51% to 43% in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll taken Oct. 27-29.
But Trump is still close to Biden in enough state battlegrounds to give him the 270 state Electoral College votes needed to win a second term. Reuters/Ipsos polls show that the race remains a toss up in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona.
Biden, who has made Trump’s response to the pandemic the central theme of his candidacy, will campaign on Sunday in Pennsylvania, a state that may well decide the winner of the election.
On Sunday and Monday, Trump will stage 10 rallies – five a day – making it the campaign’s busiest stretch. He aims to generate enough momentum to drive an overwhelming turnout by his supporters on Tuesday, Election Day.
On Sunday, the president will hold rallies in Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. On Monday his campaign has scheduled events in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and two in Michigan.
He will close out the two-day swing with a late-night rally on Monday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same location where he finished his campaign in 2016. In his improbable victory four years ago, he took Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states that for decades had gone in the Democratic column.
Weighing down Trump is a rising number of coronavirus infections. The country has recorded more than 9 million cases, with nearly 230,000 people dead. Trump has played down the virus and says his opponents are using it against him.
At a rally on Saturday in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Trump seemed to lament his close race with Biden, who he considers a weak opponent.
“This could only happen to me,” Trump said. “How could we be tied?”
Despite Biden’s lead in national opinion polls, the state-by-state surveys of battleground states show a closer race.
To win again Trump has to chart a narrow path by winning states he won in 2016, like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and Arizona, and holding at least one of the Midwestern states that he took four years ago, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin.
Some Republicans are pessimistic about Trump’s chances, believing he has too many states where his back is up against the wall. They also worry that the 90 million who have cast ballots early suggest a wave building against the president.
Trump and his team believe polls undersell the Republican’s level of support, arguing many of his backers do not want to admit as much to pollsters and that, thanks to a strong Republican get-out-the-vote effort, the incumbent will win.