by AFP/FILE PIX
Donald Trump stumped for votes in Joe Biden’s native city on the eve of Election Day, dismissing polls that show him headed for defeat as his Democratic challenger urged Americans to draw a line under four years of “chaos.”
The septuagenarian rivals spent Monday swarming the swing states that will decide the election before converging on the pivotal battleground of Pennsylvania where both were holding major rallies.
Trump won the state in a stunner in 2016, but Biden has maintained a steady if narrowing lead there, and will make an 11th-hour Election Day trip to his gritty childhood hometown of Scranton.
Trump jetted into the city for a raucous event on Biden’s home turf, but not before rallying supporters in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“I watch these fake polls,” Trump said there. “We’re going to win anyway.”
The Republican’s gripe at pollsters — combined with swipes at journalists, social media CEOs and his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton — reflected the bitter mood as he faces the possibility of being removed from the White House.
As he pivoted back to his months-long attempts to paint Biden as either “sleepy” or “corrupt,” the crowd chanted: “Lock him up!”
And Trump sought to recapture the spirit of his shock win four years ago, telling the crowd: “You elected an outsider as president who is finally putting America first.”
“Get out and vote, that’s all I ask.”
But Biden, who has built his campaign on casting Trump as a reckless failure during the coronavirus pandemic, senses victory.
Opinion polls give him small but steady advantages in all the swing states that tip close elections and even threatening Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas.
“It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home,” Biden, 77, told supporters at a socially-distanced event in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We’re done with the chaos! We’re done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility.”
After Ohio, Biden headed to Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania where he was joined by pop superstar Lady Gaga — in black platform shoes and a bedazzled “VOTE” mask — for a drive-in rally.
– Fears of violence, chaos –
In chilly downtown Pittsburgh, Justine Wolff said she had cast her ballot for Biden already — and was cautiously hopeful he would carry the state.
“I hope that people have seen the writing on the wall,” said the 35-year-old nurse. “We need some kind of change because this isn’t working for anybody.”
Biden will be back in Pennsylvania on Tuesday — US Election Day campaigning is rare but legal — heading first to Scranton and then the state’s largest city Philadelphia.
Barack Obama was also lending political star power to his former vice president, rallying supporters in Georgia and then in Florida, where the vote is on a razor’s edge.
Tuesday is formally Election Day but in reality it marks the culmination of a drawn-out election month.
With a huge expansion in mail-in voting to safeguard against the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 100 million people have already cast ballots, highlighting the passion in what is turning into a referendum on the norm-shattering Republican’s first term.
Throughout downtown Washington, businesses boarded up windows in expectation of unrest, and a new “unscalable” fence was reportedly planned around the White House, behind growing layers of fortifications since a summer of anti-racism protests.
While the Trump administration warned of left-wing extremists causing havoc, the president’s supporters made their own show of force, driving in caravans of flag-bedecked pick-up trucks and blocking roads around the country.
– ‘Red wave?’ –
Trump, who mocks Biden’s modestly attended events as proof that the opinion polls must be wrong, was capping his closing surge of 14 rallies in three days with visits to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
The last rally will be Monday night in Grand Rapids — the site where Trump delivered the final speech of his victorious 2016 campaign and where he hopes once more to spark an upset.
Lynn Gionte, a 60-year-old nurse attending Trump’s Scranton rally, predicted “a red wave” that the president will ride to reelection.
“I’ve seen more Trump signs than Biden signs here,” Gionte told AFP. “I’ve never seen this much excitement for a president.”
But Trump has clearly fretted over the record early vote count, which tends to lean Democratic.
The president, who falsely claims mail-in votes will lead to mass fraud, has upped the ante by suggesting he will push to disqualify votes that arrive after Tuesday — a practice which is in fact legal in several key states, provided the ballots are postmarked in time.