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Trump makes final battleground blitz

POLITICO logo POLITICO 11/1/2020 By Gabby Orr
Donald Trump et al. in front of a crowd: President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Oct. 31 in Reading, Pa. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Oct. 31 in Reading, Pa.

UPPER MAKEFIELD, Pa. — In the final 72 hours of the 2016 election, President Donald Trump visited every quadrant of the United States — traveling from New Hampshire to Florida, Nevada to Virginia, Colorado to North Carolina. There are fewer miles between his campaign stops this time, but the frenetic pace remains.

With just three days left before the Nov. 3 election, the president is betting it all on the Rust Belt states that won him the White House four years ago, where polls have tightened and his campaign aides are holding out hope for an election-day surge in GOP turnout. Between now and Tuesday, the president will hold 14 rallies — possibly more — with a curated selection of arguments tailor-made for his supporters.

Trump previewed his closing pitch to voters during a campaign swing through Pennsylvania on Saturday, presenting them with a series of binary choices: socialism or a free market; Covid-19 lockdowns or reopened communities; tax cuts or expensive government programs like the Green New Deal; thriving industries or outsourced jobs. It was a sensationalized version of the theme his campaign has pushed all summer — that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a puppet of his party’s most liberal forces and can’t be trusted to lead the post-coronavirus economic recovery.

“This election is a choice between a Biden depression or a Trump super-recovery. It’s a choice between a Biden lockdown or a safe vaccine that ends the pandemic,” Trump told the crowd at his first of four rallies here on Saturday, held at the site of George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War.

He continued, “Under Biden, there will be no school, no weddings, no graduations. No Thanksgiving, no Christmas, no 4th of July. Biden will trap you in an endless nightmare of deadly lockdowns.”

With limited time to pull in new voters, the president will spend his final days on the campaign trail focused on one goal: Convincing his rural and working-class supporters a red wave is attainable, but only if they show up at the polls. The base-centered play is meant to rev enthusiasm at the 11th hour as Democrats shatter early turnout records in several battleground states and Republicans aggressively push for similar levels of engagement.


Video: Biden: Trump 'has simply given up' on COVID-19 (Reuters - US Video Online)

On Sunday, Trump will visit Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, concentrating his efforts in the industrial Midwest and a trio of southern states where he and Biden are within striking distance of each other. He will then spend the majority of Monday back in the Rust Belt, with stops in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and two rallies in Michigan. New polling from CNN on Saturday shows the president trailing Biden in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona, though the Arizona results are within the polling margin of error.

“Three days from now, this is the state that will save the American dream,” Trump said at a Saturday afternoon stop in Berks County, Pa., which he carried by 18,000 votes in 2016. “There is only one way to preserve and protect the American way of life. You must show up on November 3.”

“The wave is forming,” he claimed, suggesting his political opponents are fearful of widespread Republican victories on Election Day, including the GOP retaking the House, that few GOP operatives or election forecasters agree are coming. “They see it on all sides and there’s nothing they can do about it.”

A Trump victory on election night would confirm that his fear-based strategy worked in regions where voters have expressed deep concern about the coronavirus pandemic but were ultimately convinced to support Trump out of fear of something worse — from higher taxes or socialized healthcare to a new wave of lockdowns or establishment rule. Still, there is little evidence that Trump, who is trailing Biden in states his campaign once saw as easy wins and is facing mounting cash woes, has a late-breaking wave of support barreling toward him.

“We’ve been building the biggest, strongest middle class in history,” the president said here on Saturday, encouraging his supporters to “not be intimidated” by Democrats’ “angry and menacing” tone.

“In truth they are actually terrified of you,” he said.

As part of the president’s final campaign blitz, his family and top surrogates have been barnstorming battleground states to supplement his efforts. On Saturday, first lady Melania Trump held a solo event in Wisconsin while Vice President Mike Pence campaigned across North Carolina. Meanwhile, the president was surrounded by an entourage of top aides that grew larger with every stop. By his third rally of the day, senior White House advisers Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and senior campaign adviser Jason Miller were all aboard Air Force One.

The president was also joined by former Notre Dame head football coach Lou Holtz at his third rally on Saturday, as part of a rotating cast of surrogates he’s rolled out at his most recent rallies.

“Just show up on November 3rd or before then to make sure this country has a chance,” Holtz told the sea of red MAGA hats. “This isn’t about Democrat or Republican, this is about right and wrong, good versus evil.”

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