Democrat Joe Biden huddled in his home state Wednesday six days before a monumental US election, fine-tuning his pandemic response plan while President Donald Trump crisscrosses America at a frenetic pace, seemingly unfazed by Covid-19’s dangers.
With a remarkable 73 million Americans having already cast their ballots, many fearing the risk of voting in crowded polling stations on election day next Tuesday, the president was making final pitches to voters in battleground states that he desperately needs to hold in order to secure four more years in office.
But while Trump overnighted in the state of Nevada ahead of back-to-back rallies in Arizona, his challenger remained hunkered down in Delaware, a breathtaking contrast of campaign styles days before an election that both sides describe as the most important of their lifetimes.
Biden attended a briefing with health experts Wednesday before delivering remarks on his plans to “beat Covid-19,” according to a campaign statement.
The pandemic has upended all aspects of American life and overshadowed the election, with polls showing it may well be the president’s undoing.
Some 57.4% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s coronavirus response, while 39.8% approve, according to a poll average compiled by tracker FiveThirtyEight.com.
By contrast voters are far more evenly split over the economy, which Trump declares his strong suit. A RealClearPolitics average shows 50% approve of his handling of the economy while 47.8% disapprove.
With most polls showing Biden leading in the final week, the 77-year-old former vice president has gone on electoral offense as he seeks to expand his state-by-state path to victory on 3 November.
On Tuesday he visited Georgia, traditionally Republican territory, and he has said he will travel to Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan in the race’s closing days. All are states that Trump won in 2016 but which are up for grabs this year.
But he has opted for low-key events that follow guidelines established by the Trump administration’s own health agencies: small crowds, social distancing, and mask-wearing.
Trump, who at 74 caught and overcame Covid-19, has thrown that caution to the wind.
He hosted massive rallies Tuesday in Michigan and Wisconsin and then in Nebraska, where he was hunting for a single Electoral College vote, a sign of how Trump’s margin for error has narrowed.
Each event featured thousands of supporters crowded together and many not wearing masks, even as coronavirus cases spike to record levels across the United States.
In Lansing, Michigan, Trump stressed he was orchestrating an economic “super-recovery” while a Biden presidency would trigger a “depression.”
But with American and European Covid-19 cases rising and no agreement yet on a new US pandemic rescue package in Congress, the Dow Jones on Wednesday sank three percent by mid-morning, its fourth straight session of losses.
A Trump remark aimed to show his economic efforts were working may have backfired when, addressing women in the Michigan audience, he said “we’re getting your husbands back to work.”
Women, millions of whom lost their own jobs during the pandemic, have sharply turned away from Trump, particularly those in the suburbs, polls show.
Trump has repeatedly stressed that the US is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, but figures do not bear that out. More than 226 000 Americans have died and daily case averages have risen, a scenario that throws a wrench into Trump’s re-election hopes.
His own chief infectious disease specialist, Anthony Fauci, offered a warning Wednesday.
Even if a Covid-19 vaccination campaign launches in the coming months, “it will be easily by the end of 2021, and perhaps even into the next year, before we start having some semblances of normality,” he told a University of Melbourne panel.
Biden on Wednesday again blasted Trump’s handling of the crisis and urged voters to come out in record numbers against the president.
“Only when we vote can we begin to steer America’s future in a new direction – a direction of truth over lies, science over fiction, and hope over fear,” he said in a statement.
The White House said meanwhile that it was closely following the situation in Philadelphia, where a second straight night of unrest and looting has set the city on edge following the fatal police shooting of a Black man.
The shooting of the 27-year-old father, who was holding a knife, was the latest to spark anger in the United States, which has seen a wave of protests for racial justice since the police killing of George Floyd in May in Minnesota.
Trump has focused on the unrest to bolster his claims to be the “law-and-order” candidate.