November 3, 2020
By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt
SCRANTON, Pa./MONACA, Pa. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden traded barbs on Monday and exhorted last-minute voters to turn out as they stumped in battleground states on the final day of a polarizing campaign that has shattered early voting records.
Even as the candidates made their final arguments, however, their campaigns were already laying the groundwork for post-election disputes.
Trump, who is trailing in national opinion polls, has continued to lob unfounded attacks at mail-in ballots, suggesting he would deploy lawyers if states are still counting votes after Election Day. His deputy campaign manager, Justin Clark, said the campaign would fight any Democratic attempt to “subvert state deadlines for receiving and counting ballots.”
In response, Biden campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon reminded reporters on Monday that states routinely needed time after election night to finish counting votes in past U.S. elections.
“Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night,” she said.
The election has already prompted an unprecedented wave of litigation over whether to adjust voting rules in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, a federal judge in Texas rejected a Republican bid to throw out about 127,000 votes already cast at drive-through voting sites in the Democratic-leaning Houston area.
At a rally in Scranton in eastern Pennsylvania, Trump reminded an enthusiastic crowd that he won the state in 2016 despite polls suggesting he would lose and warned that election officials’ plan to count ballots up to three days after Election Day was a “dangerous situation.”
“You have to have a date. You can’t extend dates,” he said.
In the western Pennsylvania town of Monaca, Biden told supporters that the country’s future rested in their hands.
“What happens tomorrow will determine what this country will look like for generations,” he said.
Trump, 74, is seeking to avoid becoming the first incumbent president to lose re-election since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. Despite Biden’s national polling lead, the race in swing states is seen as close enough that Trump could still piece together the 270 votes needed to prevail in the state-by-state Electoral College system that determines the winner.
After visits to North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Trump was headed to Wisconsin and Michigan – four states he won narrowly in 2016 but that polls show could swing to Biden this year. As he has done for months, the president spoke to large crowds, where many attendees eschewed masks and social distancing despite the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden, 77, who has made Trump’s handling of the pandemic the central theme of his campaign, spoke in Ohio and Pennsylvania to much smaller gatherings. He was set to hold an evening drive-in rally in Pittsburgh alongside singer Lady Gaga.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll in Florida, a perennial swing state, showed Biden with a 50%-46% lead, a week after the two were in a statistical tie.
Early voting has surged to levels never before seen in U.S. elections. A record-setting 97.3 million early votes have been cast either in person or by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
The number is equal to 70% of the entire voter turnout for the 2016 election and represents about 40% of all Americans who are legally eligible to vote.
That unprecedented level of early voting includes 60 million mail-in ballots that could take days or weeks to be counted in some states, meaning a winner might not be declared in the hours after polls close on Tuesday night.
Some states, including critical Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, do not start processing mail-in votes until Election Day, slowing the process.
‘VOTER INTIMIDATION IS ILLEGAL’
Twitter said on Monday it would attach a warning label to any tweets, including those from candidates, that claim an election win before either state election officials or national news outlets do so.
In a sign of how volatile the election could be, buildings in several cities were boarded up, including around the White House in Washington and Macy’s flagship department store in New York.
The FBI was investigating an incident in Texas when a pro-Trump convoy of vehicles surrounded a tour bus carrying Biden campaign staff. The caravan, which Trump praised, prompted the Biden campaign to cancel at least two of its Texas events, as Democrats accused the president of encouraging supporters to engage in acts of intimidation.
Eight state attorneys general, representing Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, warned on Monday they would not tolerate voter intimidation.
“Voter intimidation is illegal in every state, whether it happens in person or from a car,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement. “People who witness concerning behavior should immediately report it to law enforcement authorities.”
Trump has repeatedly said without evidence that mail-in votes are prone to fraud, although election experts say that is rare in U.S. elections. Mail voting is a long-standing feature of American elections, and about one in four ballots was cast that way in 2016.
Democrats have pushed mail-in voting as a safe way to cast a ballot, while Trump and Republicans are counting on a big Election Day in-person turnout.
Graphic: Latest on U.S. presidential race – https://amers1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=20856
Trump will wrap up his campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same place he concluded his 2016 presidential run.
Biden, running mate Kamala Harris and their spouses are spending most of Monday in Pennsylvania, splitting up to hit all four corners of a state that has become vital to the Democrats’ hopes. Biden is spending Election Day in Pennsylvania, with stops in Scranton, his childhood home, and Philadelphia.
Former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president for eight years, will hold a get-out-the-vote rally in Atlanta on Monday before an evening rally in Miami.
Biden has finished his campaign on the offensive, traveling almost exclusively to states Trump won in 2016.
Biden accuses Trump of giving up on fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 230,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs. Polls show Americans trust Biden more than Trump to fight the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, has said the first doses of an effective coronavirus vaccine will likely become available to some high-risk Americans in late December or early January.
Trump, who has often disagreed with Fauci publicly, suggested early on Monday he might fire him after the election.
“Elect me, and I’m going to hire Dr. Fauci, and we’re going to fire Donald Trump,” Biden said in Cleveland.
Graphic: Where Biden and Trump stand on the issues – https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/POLICY/ygdpzwarjvw/index.html
Graphic: Multimedia U.S. election coverage – https://www.reuters.com/world/us-election2020
(Reporting by Steve Holland in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Trevor Hunnicutt in Cleveland, Ohio; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Costas Pitas and Nandita Bose; Writing by Joseph Ax and John Whitesides; Editing by Scott Malone, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)
Source: OANN, Biden, Trump trade jabs, prepare for post-election ballot court battle