President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden gave starkly contrasting messages on Saturday about the coronavirus pandemic, taking their campaigns for the White House on the road as COVID-19 cases surged again.
Trump addressed a few thousand supporters at a tightly packed, in-person, outdoor rally in North Carolina, one of the battleground states in the Nov. 3 election. He again said America was turning the corner in the fight against COVID-19 and mocked Biden’s more cautious campaigning style.
Biden, a former vice president, addressed supporters in about 130 vehicles at a drive-in rally in the swing state of Pennsylvania and warned of a grim winter ahead unless the Trump administration did a better job of halting the disease, which has killed 224,000 Americans.
Opinion polls show Biden leading Trump nationally, but the race is much closer in the battleground states that will decide the election. Trump was headed to large rallies in two more of those states, Ohio and Wisconsin, later on Saturday.
In Lumberton, North Carolina, he told supporters he was offering a fast recovery from the economic damage wrought by virus lockdowns, which have devastated small businesses and put millions out of work.
“It’s a choice between a Trump super boom and a Biden lockdown,” the Republican president said. “We are rounding the turn,” he said, repeating a claim he has been making for months that America is close to getting the better of the virus.
By contrast, Biden warned that the cold months ahead could be even harsher due to a resurgence of the virus, which has killed more people in the United States than anywhere else and is on the rise in several battleground states.
“It’s going to be a dark winter ahead unless we change our ways,” he said of Trump’s attempts to contain the coronavirus.
Biden was addressing supporters in the town of Bristol who had gathered in pickup trucks or cars, many with their windows or sunroofs down, to avoid possible coronavirus infection. Biden’s campaign limited each vehicle to a maximum of four passengers.
At one point, Biden called out a group of Trump supporters who were shouting into microphones nearby. “We don’t do things like those chumps out there with the microphone are doing. The Trump guys. It’s about decency.”
At his event in Lumberton, Trump made fun of the Biden rally, which he said he had seen on television.
“There were so few cars. I’ve never seen an audience like that,” he said. “It was a tiny, tiny little crowd. You could hear the cars: honk honk.”
The United States set a single-day record of more than 84,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, with the spike in infections hitting election swing states Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
North Carolina reported 2,584 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, down from a record high of 2,716 the day before.
Many states have expanded in-person early voting and mail-in ballots as a safer way to vote during the pandemic.
Trump voted in his adopted home of Florida on Saturday, joining more than 56 million Americans who have cast early ballots at a record-setting pace.
Trump cast his ballot at a library in West Palm Beach, near his Mar-a-Lago resort, after switching his permanent residence and voter registration last year from New York to Florida, a must-win battleground for his re-election bid.
“I voted for a guy named Trump,” he told reporters after voting.
With 10 days to go in the campaign, the pace of early voting could lead to the highest voter turnout rate in more than a century, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project.
Trump has regularly condemned mail-in voting without evidence as prone to fraud, even though experts say it is as safe as any other method.
The large number of early voters is a sign of the intense interest in this year’s election, as well as concerns about avoiding crowded polling places on Election Day and reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
In New York state, voters jammed polling places and stood in line for hours to cast ballots on the state’s first day of early voting on Saturday. Long lines formed before polls opened across New York City and Long Island, videos on social media shown.
In Pennsylvania, polls show Biden narrowly leading. A Reuters/Ipsos survey released earlier this week showed Biden with a four-percentage point advantage over Trump in the state, down from seven points the week before.
Biden got some help again on Saturday from former President Barack Obama, who held a drive-in rally in Miami.
Obama, still popular in the party nearly four years after leaving office, delivered a blistering attack on Trump’s leadership
“He hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody except himself and his friends or treating the presidency like a reality show to give himself more attention,” Obama said. “The rest of us have to live with the consequences of what he’s done. At least 220,000 Americans are dead.”
About 200 cars, many decorated with American flags and Biden signs, crept past temperature checks and bomb-sniffing dogs on the way to the rally.