With just over a fortnight to go until Election Day, U.S. President Donald Trump and his opponent Democratic nominee Joe Biden continued to woo voters in ‘battleground states’. However, the commonalities mostly stopped there – the two candidates delivered sharply contrasting messages on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy, and questions of policing and racial justice.
On Sunday afternoon Mr. Biden held a drive-in campaign event in Durham, North Carolina, while Mr. Trump flew to a rally in Sun City, Nevada, after campaigning in Wisconsin and Michigan.
“Folks, times are hard, unemployment’s way up,” Mr. Biden said, linking job security to his own childhood in Scranton Pennsylvania and Claymont, Delaware; Mr. Biden’s father had to move for his father’s work.
Mr. Biden said nearly 4,000 people had died of COVID-19 in North Carolina and over 217,000 had died in the U.S. but Mr. Trump was insisting that the U.S. had “turned the corner.”
“And my grandfather would say, ‘This guy’s gone around the bend if he thinks we turned the corner,’” Mr. Biden said.
“Experts say we’re likely to lose as many as 200,000 additional lives nationwide between now and the end of the year. All because this President cares more about his Park Avenue perspective on the world, the stock market than he does about you. Because he refuses to follow the science,” Mr. Biden said, emphasizing what has become a theme for him in this campaign: his working-class roots in Scranton versus Mr. Trump’s wealthy “Park Avenue” background.
With regard to racial tensions and racial justice, Mr. Biden said the country needed “hope” and “to heal” and “needed to de-escalate tensions, open lines of communication.”
“But true justice is also about jobs, good-paying jobs, financial stability,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Trump beat 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton in North Carolina by almost 4 percentage points. Mr. Biden currently leads polling in the state by an average of 2.7% according to Real Clear Politics.
Mr. Trump, speaking later on Sunday on the other side of the country (in Nevada), struck a different chord on similar issues. He spoke about “rounding the turn”[ turning the corner] on the pandemic.
Mr. Trump said that Americans were having the “best year you ever had” before the pandemic hit the country.
“And then we closed it [ the country ] up and we saved over 2 million lives by doing what we did. They don’t like to say that. We did a great job,” he said. Studies (including one from Columbia University for instance) have shown that had the U.S.’s March lockdown and social distancing guidelines been in place one week earlier, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved. The 2 million figure Mr. Trump repeatedly cites refers to the worst-case scenario result from a White House disease model released in the early days of the pandemic.
Mr. Trump told the crowd in Carson City that he felt like Superman after receiving an infusion of monoclonal antibodies. Mr. Trump had, as per reports, considered wearing and then revealing a Superman T-shirt under his button-down shirt (like Clark Kent transforming into Superman), when he left Walter Reed hospital some weeks ago where he was being treated for COVID-19.
He said the elections were a choice between a “Trump super recovery” and “Biden depression”; between “strong borders” and “no borders”; between “supporting the police” and “defunding the police.”
“Between delivering a vaccine in record time to kill the virus or a Biden shutdown to kill the economy,” Mr. Trump said. The president mocked Mr. Biden’s approach to the pandemic.
“He will surrender your future to the virus,” Mr. Trump said.
He said Americans had voted in 2016 to “fire” the “decrepit political establishment.” [ Mr. Trump had lost the popular vote by 3 million but won the electoral college vote].
“And you elected an outsider as the president who is finally putting America first”, Mr. Trump said, calling the Biden family a “criminal enterprise.”
At one point, when Mr. Trump made unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, the crowd chanted “LOCK HIM UP!”
Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump in Nevada by an average of 5.2 percentage points (49% versus 43.8%) according to Real Clear Politics. Democrats have won the state since 2004, with Ms. Clinton narrowly beating Mr. Trump there in 2016. However, Democrats took seats from Nevada Republicans in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.