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Trump campaigning, no public events for Biden before Thursday debate

Former Vice President ahead in polls as President tries to rally supporters.

Posted: Oct 20, 2020 3:29 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump shunned formal debate practice Tuesday 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 leadup to Thursday's faceoff 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 fundraising for campaign ads, Trump is increasingly relying on his signature campaign rallies to deliver a closing message to voters and maximize turnout among his GOP base.

Three weeks of wrangling over the debate format and structure appeared to have subsided Tuesday 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 his 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 Tuesday 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 northwest corner, went for President Barack Obama by five points in 2012 but broke for Trump by two in 2016. That swing, fueled 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 Tuesday 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’ “60 Minutes” and a town hall with local news conglomerate Sinclair that will air on Wednesday.

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 that 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 theater near his home, has no public events on Tuesday or Wednesday and wasn’t scheduled to travel except to the debate itself on Thursday. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris was out campaigning, and he was expected to receive a late boost from former President Obama, who was to host an event Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Biden is now tested about every two days for the coronavirus and has never been found to be positive. He suggested before last week’s planned second debate in Miami that the proceedings shouldn’t happen if Trump was still testing positive for COVID-19 after contracting the virus earlier in the month.

The candidates instead held dueling town halls on separate networks after the commission said the debate should occur virtually, citing safety concerns, and Trump rejected the idea.

Biden has been tightlipped about his preparation for the Nashville debate, saying only that he has focused on watching Trump’s past statements on key issues. Biden’s advisers see the final debate as a chance to discuss foreign policy, which they, too, see as one of their candidate’s strengths. Biden has praised the Trump administration for helping to broker deals that the Gulf states of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed recognizing Israel, but otherwise has accused the president of shunning allies and making foreign relations more volatile at most points around the globe.

The debate comes as Trump has used his closing message to voters to defend his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans and to attack his Democratic rival for pledging to heed the advice of scientific experts.

Trump insisted Tuesday that he gets along with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease specialist, while also complaining on “Fox & Friends” that the doctor who has clashed with him at times over the coronavirus is not a “team player.”

A day earlier, Trump said on a call with campaign aides that “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," adding of the doctor: “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb. But there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci’s a disaster.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 282916

Reported Deaths: 3359
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin605241095
Ramsey25467477
Anoka20172216
Dakota19573179
Washington12799108
Stearns1254793
Scott764754
St. Louis763197
Wright683036
Olmsted616033
Sherburne522339
Clay449655
Carver420912
Blue Earth379511
Rice377732
Kandiyohi365915
Crow Wing324131
Nobles298029
Chisago28838
Otter Tail273315
Benton269340
Winona251828
Mower239723
Polk230621
Douglas228929
Morrison215321
Lyon200011
McLeod19289
Beltrami190415
Goodhue180926
Becker178810
Steele17296
Itasca170524
Isanti170216
Todd167412
Carlton161310
Nicollet148223
Freeborn14195
Mille Lacs136530
Le Sueur135010
Waseca131811
Cass12368
Pine12216
Brown121110
Meeker11187
Roseau10143
Martin100620
Hubbard100022
Wabasha9351
Redwood82718
Dodge7980
Chippewa7907
Watonwan7884
Cottonwood7431
Renville73118
Sibley7224
Wadena7166
Aitkin69224
Rock6779
Pipestone67318
Houston6242
Fillmore6150
Yellow Medicine58211
Pennington5576
Murray5433
Kanabec54112
Swift5266
Pope4910
Faribault4901
Stevens4552
Clearwater4456
Marshall4377
Jackson4291
Lake3654
Unassigned35856
Koochiching3475
Wilkin3305
Lac qui Parle3213
Lincoln3171
Norman3166
Big Stone2801
Mahnomen2554
Grant2396
Red Lake1973
Kittson1876
Traverse1340
Lake of the Woods891
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 216579

Reported Deaths: 2240
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk32244325
Linn13583162
Scott1055981
Black Hawk10541131
Woodbury9984116
Johnson920835
Dubuque886590
Story656619
Dallas611456
Pottawattamie589167
Sioux356425
Webster345831
Marshall339244
Cerro Gordo332342
Clinton312337
Buena Vista293514
Muscatine273968
Des Moines270616
Warren264810
Plymouth261938
Wapello244071
Jones225313
Jasper208440
Marion196719
Carroll192621
Lee191716
Bremer187212
Henry17257
Crawford170715
Benton162716
Tama149440
Jackson138511
Delaware137221
Washington135813
Boone130711
Dickinson128510
Mahaska123427
Wright11835
Buchanan11249
Clay10964
Hardin109310
Page10854
Hamilton10477
Clayton10455
Harrison102428
Calhoun10237
Cedar102213
Fayette10008
Mills9977
Floyd98614
Lyon9858
Kossuth9675
Poweshiek95512
Butler9375
Winneshiek91510
Iowa89611
Winnebago88023
Louisa82316
Hancock8217
Grundy81711
Sac8077
Chickasaw8014
Cherokee7814
Cass77221
Appanoose7509
Shelby7346
Allamakee73211
Guthrie72415
Humboldt7205
Mitchell7204
Union7166
Emmet71424
Franklin68820
Madison6614
Jefferson6441
Palo Alto6114
Unassigned5961
Keokuk5537
Pocahontas5442
Howard5089
Greene5070
Osceola5031
Clarke4644
Ida45510
Davis4415
Taylor4352
Montgomery43410
Monroe43112
Adair4218
Monona4032
Fremont3483
Van Buren3434
Worth3410
Lucas3166
Decatur3070
Wayne2896
Audubon2841
Ringgold1902
Adams1551
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