DES MOINES – President Trump stunned the political world in 2016 with a sweep of critical northern swing states, winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than a percentage point and forcing Democrats to four research into what went wrong in their geographic history. based.
Four years later, the cold Midwest once again emerges as the primary election battleground, and on Friday Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. crisscrossed the region campaigning in States which are not only essential for the president, but also at the heart of the identity of the two parties.
For the Democrats, their Blue Wall in the Midwest was for years their only defense against the Republican Party stronghold in the south, a demonstration that they were still the party of workers, working-class families and predominantly black urban centers. . For Republicans, these states are a key part of their rural base, and Mr. Trump has delivered his speech to farmers and white working-class voters here.
While the country reported a record number of coronavirus cases last week, Mr Trump continued to insist on Friday that the illness caused by the virus was not serious. At a rally in Michigan, a state that reported a 91% increase in new cases over the average two weeks earlier, he made an extraordinary and unfounded accusation that U.S. doctors were taking advantage of coronavirus deaths , claiming they were paid more if the patients died. He also mocked Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who attended the rally, for wearing a mask. “I’ve never seen her masked,” he says. “She is very politically correct.”
Mr Biden, in Iowa, took the opposite approach, pointing to the state’s record number of new cases and noting that the Iowa State Fair was canceled this year for the first time since Second World War. “And Donald Trump gave up,” Biden said.
Later in Minnesota, Mr. Biden flogged Mr. Trump for his comments about doctors taking advantage of deaths from the virus. “Doctors and nurses are going to work every day to save lives,” he said. “They are doing their job. Donald Trump should stop attacking them and do his job.
While the first round of election night will be in the Sun Belt – in southeastern states like Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia – the second round will be in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. Late in most polls and with an increasingly narrow path to victory, Mr Trump has been forced to stage a series of large rallies in states he cannot afford to lose.
That pressure was reflected in the latest dash of the Trump campaign, starting with stops in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota on Friday. Just before Mr Trump took the stage at his first rally in Waterford Township, Mich., Dressed in a black overcoat and black leather gloves, his campaign announced he would be back in the state for two more rallies on Monday, with additional stops. in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania on the same day.
“He’s kind of trying to repeat the 2016 textbook,” said Charles Franklin, survey director for Marquette Law School. “He’s coming back to these three states. He did it effectively, surprised us all and won with this strategy.
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But this time the scenery is more difficult. Mr Biden led Mr Trump by eight percentage points to Michigan in a recent New York Times and Siena College poll, highlighting his troubled position in the battlefield states of the Midwest where his base of white voters without a degree academic seems to be moving away from him. . In Wisconsin, a poll average shows Mr. Biden has a 10-point lead.
Overall, in the four states the candidates visited on Friday, the Biden campaign has overtaken Mr. Trump on air by $ 2.2 million to $ 1.4 million in the past 24 hours, according to Advertising Analytics . The message most spread by the cash-strapped Trump campaign seemed to come from his run for the White House in 2016: a promise to “bring jobs home.”
Mr. Biden, full of money, runs a much more complex ad campaign with 27 different ads running in the four states; its most frequent advertisement was about controlling the virus.
Neither campaign made any major changes to its pay media strategy on Friday, although the Trump campaign added $ 1.8 million to its national cable purchase, which airs on channels with a conservative audience like Fox News and History Channel.
Trump’s campaign advisers, while expressing confidence in the president’s prospects, have pointed to a number of outside factors that are making this year more difficult on the northern battlefields. The governorates of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are now all held by elected officials they call “anti-Trump Democrats.” Early voting, they concede, is a major “X factor” whose impact is not yet fully understood.
And the pandemic remains a major concern for voters, to some extent dampening the economic gains Mr. Trump hoped to achieve.
Campaign officials point to the Milwaukee suburb as one of the few suburbs in the country to have moved in Mr. Trump’s direction since the summer. Unlike other areas, where law and order has become a top priority, they said it has remained a top priority there, since the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
But Mr Franklin, who leads Wisconsin’s most respected political inquiry, said his polls did not show the president winning new voters with his law and order speech. After the president’s visit to Kenosha in September, Franklin said, Republican approval of his response to the protests increased by 21 points. But the independents only progressed by about three points.
“He preaches to the choir, and he gets a strong amen, but that doesn’t add more people to the pews,” Franklin said.
On the campaign trail this week, the president focused more on personal feuds than political contrasts, and insisted the country was turning the corner on the virus while disregarding public health precautions. At his first of three rallies on Friday, Mr. Trump slammed one of his favorite foils, Michigan Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the crowd chanted in response, “Lock her up.”
“Not me, not me,” Mr. Trump said of the vocals, doing nothing to dissuade him. “They blame me every time this happens.”
On his final stop of the day in Rochester, Minnesota, the president left the stage after less than 30 minutes, visibly angry at state restrictions that denied him the large crowd of supporters he prefers. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota, a Democrat, has limited gatherings in his state to no more than 250 people.
Mr Trump claimed there were “at least 25,000 people who wanted to be here tonight” and accused Democratic leaders like Keith Ellison, the state attorney general, of preventing his supporters from rallying. . Mr. Trump claimed his supporters were “barred from entry by radical Democrats.”
He left the stage without his usual finish, where he talks about “winning, winning, winning” and dancing at the Village People’s “YMCA”.
Mr Biden’s swing in the Midwest on Friday included stops in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, a route that showed both the promise and the peril of the electoral map for his campaign, the former vice president playing both offense and defense within hours.
Iowa gave Mr Biden a ‘punch’ earlier this year, as he later said after finishing fourth in state caucuses, and it’s not among the states of the battlefield on which his campaign focused most. Although Iowa voted twice for Barack Obama, it swung sharply to the right in 2016, when Mr. Trump won by nine percentage points.
But polls have shown a close race between Mr Trump and Mr Biden this time around, with Mr Trump expected to travel to the state on Sunday for a rally in Dubuque. Mr Biden’s visit also had the potential to boost Democratic Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, who challenges incumbent Joni Ernst in a close race.
On a beautiful fall day, Mr Biden hosted a car rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, where supporters decorated their cars with Biden signs and honked their horns to show him their support. Others stood beside their cars waving American flags.
Standing in front of her van, Linda Garlinghouse, 69, hoped for a big win from Mr. Biden – an outcome that would be more likely if Mr. Biden won a state like Iowa. “I’m just hoping for a landslide,” she said, so that there is “no doubt about the election.”
Iowa is in the midst of an outbreak of coronavirus cases, and Mr Biden was introduced by a man from Iowa whose 92-year-old father has died from the virus, highlighting the personal pain the pandemic has inflicted on so many families. In a heavily agricultural state, Mr. Biden also criticized Mr. Trump on trade, blaming the president’s “weak and chaotic trade policy” for hurting farmers and manufacturers.
During his swing in the Midwest on Friday, Mr. Biden also devoted precious time to a layover in Minnesota, a state that has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972. But Mr. Trump has turned down. long set on Minnesota as the one that escaped in 2016, when it lost by just 1.5 percentage points.
Polls have shown Mr. Biden a bigger lead this year, despite Mr. Trump’s efforts to overthrow the state, and Mr. Biden told reporters on Friday morning he was not worried. “I don’t take anything for granted,” he said before leaving Delaware. “We will work for every vote until the last minute.”
Thomas Kaplan reported from Des Moines and Annie Karni from Washington. Nick Corasaniti has contributed reporting from Philadelphia and Sydney Ember from Connecticut.