In debate countdown, Trump holds rally, Biden does prepWednesday, October 21, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — President Donald Trump shunned formal debate practice yesterday and was heading instead for another of his big rallies, two days ahead of the final presidential debate that may be his last, best chance to alter the trajectory of the 2020 campaign. Democrat Joe Biden took the opposite approach, holing up for debate prep.
In the lead-up to Thursday's face-off in Nashville, Trump is trailing in polls in most battleground states as he works to pull off a repeat of his come-from-behind victory of 2016. Also trailing in fund-raising for campaign ads, Trump is increasingly relying on his signature campaign rallies to deliver a closing message to voters and maximise turnout among his GOP base.
Three weeks of wrangling over the debate format and structure appeared to have subsided yesterday, after The Commission on Presidential Debates unveiled a rules change meant to reduce the chaotic interruptions that plagued the first Trump-Biden encounter last month.
This time, Trump and Biden will each have the microphone cut off while his rival delivers an opening, two-minute answer to each of the six debate topics, the commission announced. The mute button won't figure in the open discussion portion of the debate.
Trump's team is calling for a more in-depth focus on foreign policy in the debate, believing it to be a strong suit for the incumbent; but there is not expected to be any shift away from the announced topics, which include a segment devoted to national security.
Trump was holding a rally last evening in Erie, Pennsylvania, a part of the state instrumental in his victory four years ago when he was the first GOP candidate since Ronald Reagan to carry the county.
Erie County, which includes the aging industrial city in the state's north-west corner, went for President Barack Obama by five points in 2012 but broke for Trump by two in 2016. That swing, fuelled by Trump's success with white, working class, non-college educated voters, was replicated in small cities and towns and rural areas and helped him overcome Hillary Clinton's victories in the state's big cities.
But Trump will likely need to run up the score by more this time around as his prospects have slipped since 2016 in vote-rich suburban Philadelphia, where he underperformed by past Republican measures. This raises the stakes for his campaign's more aggressive outreach to new rural and small town voters across the industrial north.
His aides worry that his opponent is uniquely situated to prevent that, as Biden not only hails from Scranton, but has built his political persona as a representative of the middle and working class.
Vice-President Mike Pence, meanwhile, was holding tele-rallies meant to boost vulnerable Republican Senate and House candidates, and he was leading a meeting of the White House coronavirus task force.
Trump was to have been joined in Erie by First Lady Melania Trump, in what was to be her first public appearance since she and the president were sickened with COVID-19, but her chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, said that Mrs Trump has a lingering cough and would not accompany the president.
Before leaving the White House, Trump was taping an interview with CBS's 60 Minutes and a town hall with local news conglomerate Sinclair that will air today.
Before the debate, the president was grumbling that he'd be at a disadvantage to his challenger.
“I just think it's very unfair,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from Arizona on Monday evening. “I will participate, but it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that, again, we have an anchor who's totally biased.”
As Trump was on the road, Biden was huddling at his lakeside home in Wilmington, Delaware, with Senior Adviser Ron Klain, who is in charge of debate preparation. Also on hand: a group of aides who the campaign has purposely kept small to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Biden, who taped his own interview with 60 Minutes on Monday at a theatre near his home, had no public events yesterday or today and wasn't scheduled to travel except to the debate itself on Thursday.
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