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In Dash to Finish, Biden and Trump stage a showdown in Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – As national early voting surpasses 93 million and electoral process challenges escalate across states, President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. rush to Pennsylvania and make it the premier election battleground Tuesday, with Democratic flooding. with knockers and Republicans trying to turn Mr. Trump’s rallies back into a high turnout.

Both campaigns see Pennsylvania as increasingly crucial to victory: Mr Trump now appears more competitive here than in Michigan and Wisconsin, two other key northern states he hopes to win, and the most electoral path clear from Mr. Biden to the White House crosses the state. . Pennsylvania has more Electoral College votes, 20, than any other traditional battleground except Florida, and Mr. Trump won the state by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Mr. Trump devoted Saturday to four rallies across the state, and he and Mr. Biden also planned campaign events for the final 48 hours of the race, with a wave of prominent Democrats and celebrities expected to arrive. On Monday, the president was due to appeal to white working-class voters in Scranton, where Mr. Biden was born, while the Democratic candidate aimed to solidify a broad coalition of white commuters and voters of color over two days. swinging through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere in western Pennsylvania.

Mr Biden leads by a modest margin in recent polls and is trying to reduce the president’s stake in rural counties. But Mr. Trump’s rallies have energized many Republican voters, and his team are already preparing legal challenges over the vote if he ends up being close. On Sunday, the president told reporters: “As soon as the elections are over, we come in with our lawyers.”

In Pennsylvania in particular, the possibility of protracted court battles and confusion hangs over the race, with the state’s Republican Party hoping the Supreme Court will reconsider its ruling last week to allow the state to continue receiving ballots. postal vote for three days after polling day.

“Each day is a new reminder of how high the stakes are, how far the other side will go to try to suppress the turnout,” Biden said as he campaigned here on Sunday. “Especially here in Philadelphia. President Trump is terrified of what will happen in Pennsylvania.

The court battles have already revamped the voting process in a range of states and continued to do so on Sunday. The Texas Supreme Court has denied Republicans’ efforts to reject more than 120,000 votes cast in drive-through locations in Harris County, an increasingly Democratic area rooted in Houston. Republicans are now hoping for a favorable decision at the federal level, where a judge called an election watch hearing on Monday.

Some Trump supporters also became disruptive on Sunday: vehicles carrying Trump flags halted traffic on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey; Local officials said the motorcade saved traffic for several kilometers. In Georgia, a rally for Democrats that had been scheduled was called off, with organizers citing concerns that they feared a “significant militia presence” drawn to Mr. Trump’s own event nearby. .

Throughout his latest rally sprint, Mr. Trump has struggled to cast unfounded doubt on the integrity of the electoral process. In an appearance in Dubuque, Iowa on Sunday, Mr. Trump wrongly claimed that the outcome of the election was always determined on polling day. “We should know the outcome of the November 3 election,” he said. “The evening of November 3. This is how it went and this is how it should be. What is happening in this country? “

Mr Biden responded with his own warning later on Sunday, saying, “The president will not steal this election.”

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Mr. Trump’s lagging position in the race was evident in his grueling travel schedule that won him votes in five states he won four years ago – Michigan, Iowa, La North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

His last rally of the day was scheduled for 11 p.m. and risked violating a midnight curfew in Miami-Dade County.

Mr Biden, on the other hand, set his sights on Pennsylvania on Sunday, an approach he will repeat again on Monday, with a foray into Ohio, a state Mr Trump easily won in 2016, but which according to polls could be more competitive now.

The Biden campaign was stepping up its push in Pennsylvania, encouraging out-of-state supporters to join prospecting efforts it had sworn to for months because of the health risks. The campaign said volunteers knocked on more than 350,000 doors on Saturday, made 2 million calls and sent 1.5 million text messages to voters in the state.

Compared to other changing states, such as Florida, far fewer advance ballots have already been cast in Pennsylvania, and according to the US Elections Project on Sunday, more than 350,000 mail-in ballots had been requested by the Democratic voters who had not yet voted. be returned. The Biden campaign focuses on the fact that a large part of the electorate here are still expected to vote on election day, an adviser said.

The final sprint of the race took place in a different context than the previous election, with fewer voters to motivate. The record number of early votes underscored intense interest in one of the most landmark elections in modern history, despite the logistical challenges of voting in the midst of a pandemic.

Mr. Biden spent Sunday afternoon with black voters at a “Souls to the Polls” drive-through at a Philadelphia church. Its reach came as Democrats worried about its ability to energize itself enough and produce black and Latin American Democratic voters in some states. He addressed another drive-through rally in the city on Sunday evening, reminding voters of their influence on the outcome.

Mr. Trump, for his part, made his own speech to black voters during his campaign in Hickory, North Carolina. “To all black Americans, I ask you to vote on Tuesday,” he said, projecting confidence in his own standing among black voters.

Mr Biden’s events in Philadelphia have launched a final push across the state in the past two days. On Monday, Mr. Biden, Senator Kamala Harris and their spouses are expected to campaign in five media markets, hoping to consolidate support for a sprawling coalition and keep Mr. Trump’s margins down in parts of it. western Pennsylvania that propelled him to victory in 2016..

“My message is simple,” Biden said on Sunday. “Pennsylvania is essential in this election.

Democrats are well aware of the dedication of Mr. Trump’s foundational base. In Macomb County, Michigan, where the president held his first rally on Sunday, Irwin Patterson was selling Trump merchandise at a makeshift roadside store.

“In Michigan here, just our little part of Michigan, the support we see here is just plain insane,” he said, as the snow blew over his customers. “I mean, it’s been off the hook for a month and a half.”

Still, Mr. Trump had work to do across the country to build his support in the states he won four years ago. In Michigan, Mr Trump has repeatedly complained of freezing temperatures and biting wind which he said was pointed “directly” at his face while making false claims about resuscitating the auto industry over there. He also embraced the actions of some of his supporters in Texas who circled a Biden field bus with their vehicles on Saturday, in an apparent attempt to slow it down and get it off the road. Mr. Trump said the vehicles “protected his bus yesterday because they’re nice.”

Later he tweeted in response to news that the FBI was investigating the incident, “in my opinion, these patriots haven’t done anything wrong,” adding that federal authorities should look at the antifa instead.

Of the three great northern swing states that Mr. Trump won four years ago, the once blue state of Pennsylvania is the one his advisers think is most likely within reach. This is in large part because of the support of rural voters and Mr. Biden’s call to finally phase out fossil fuels, an unpopular position for many voters in a state with a large natural gas industry.

Mr Trump entered the final hours of the race in a worse position here than he was four years ago, when Pennsylvania was considered Hillary Clinton’s firewall. This time, Mr Biden has a six-point lead, according to a new New York Times / Siena College poll released on Sunday, and is working to create multiple pathways to 270 electoral votes.

This lead, however, is not enough to make Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans feel fully confident about the state of the race in Pennsylvania. Some of the president’s opponents in recent days have expressed concern about the turnout in rural counties across the state, as well as calls about ballots that never arrived.

The Trump campaign ads aired in Pennsylvania focused largely on economic messages, primarily jobs and taxes. The campaign’s most widely circulated ad in Pennsylvania over the past week has been negative publicity claiming Mr. Biden will raise taxes (he has said he will raise taxes for those earning more than $ 400,000).

But the Biden campaign has not ceded the topic to the president, with 14 different ads on the air that touch on jobs and the economy. His top-running advertisement in Pennsylvania over the past week included a speech by Biden outlining his pandemic recovery plans, including jobs. Another ad directly refutes the Trump campaign’s attacks on his tax plan.

Pennsylvania’s economy is emerging from a pandemic recession, but still has a long way to go towards its pre-crisis state. Like the country, it has experienced a two-track recovery that has left small businesses and working poor behind.

Pennsylvania saw its unemployment rate drop to 8.1% in September, according to the Department of Labor, almost identical to the national rate of 7.9%. This is a significant improvement from the unemployment rate of 16.1% posted in April. But the state still had 380,000 fewer jobs in September than in September 2019, and there are 18% fewer small businesses open here compared to a year ago, according to data compiled by Opportunity economists. Insights.

Pennsylvania has long held an important place in the psyche of the Biden campaign. Mr Biden, from Scranton, gave his first speech of his presidential campaign in Pittsburgh, and he chose Philadelphia for his campaign headquarters, before the pandemic struck.

“This blue wall must be restored,” Biden said in another recent campaign appearance in Pennsylvania. He said winning the state meant “a lot to me, both personally and politically”.

Katie Glueck reported from Philadelphia and Annie Karni from Washington. Nick Corasaniti, Rick Rojas, Shane Goldmacher, Jim Tankersley and Jeremy Peters contributed reporting.