Joe Biden vowed Wednesday not to campaign “on the false promises of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch,” pledging instead to prioritize science, while President Donald Trump used the race’s final days keeping a whirlwind schedule aimed at focusing on anything but the coronavirus.
The Democratic presidential nominee also argued that a Supreme Court conservative majority stretched to 6-3 by newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett could dismantle the Obama administration’s signature health law and leave millions without insurance coverage during the pandemic. He called Trump’s handling of coronavirus an “insult” to its victims, especially as cases rise dramatically around the country — an increase large enough to cause financial markets to sag.
“Even if I win, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “I do promise this: We will start on day one doing the right things.”
Trump began his day in Las Vegas, were he condemned violence that occurred during some protests in response to the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, in Philadelphia.
Trump said of Biden and the destructive demonstrators, “This is a group that he supports, he doesn’t want to condemn them.” But Biden had already done just that, saying, “There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence.” Biden said protesting overall was ”totally legitimate.”
Trump was holding two rallies in Arizona, including one just across the Colorado River from Nevada that he hoped to use to appeal to voters in that state. A Trump Nevada rally in September attracted thousands and led to the airport that hosted it being fined more than $5,500 for violating pandemic crowd restrictions.
Rather than curb the crowds, Trump is simply shifting his event to nearby Bullhead City, Arizona. It’s the latest example of the president downplaying the virus and criticizing Democratic leaders in states like Nevada, who have imposed limits on gatherings to combat the worst public health crisis in more than a century.
Wednesday’s rally crowd looked to be mostly from Arizona, though there attendees from Nevada. Few wore masks.
Trump had held an outdoor rally in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday night. After he left, hundreds of attendees at Eppley Airfield spent hours waiting in the cold for transportation to cars parked far away. Several people were taken to hospitals amid concerns about exposure.
“Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttlebuses – double the normal allotment – but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays,” Trump spokeswoman Samantha Zager said.
With less than a week until Election Day, Trump is trailing Biden in most national polls. Biden also has an advantage, though narrower, in the key swing states that could decide the election.
Biden voted early in Wilmington on Wednesday and also received a virtual briefing from health experts. One, Dr. David Kessler, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, warned, “We are in the midst of the third wave, and I don’t think anyone can tell you how high this is going to get.”
In the U.S., more than 71,000 people a day are testing positive for the virus on average, up from 51,000 two weeks ago. Cases are rising in all but two states, Hawaii and Delaware, and deaths are climbing in 39, with an average of 805 people dying in the U.S. per day, up from 714 two weeks ago.
Overall, about 227,000 Americans have now been killed by the virus.
Trump views Nevada, a state that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since 2004, as one option for success. Hillary Clinton won it by less than 2.5 percentage points in 2016.
The president is also aiming to keep Arizona in his column. The state hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, but it is competitive this year.
Democrats aren’t ceding either Nevada or Arizona in the final days of the campaign. Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was in Nevada on Tuesday and Arizona on Wednesday, meeting with Latina business leaders in Tucson and African American community leaders in Phoenix, as well as holding drive-in, voter mobilization rallies both places.
On Friday, Harris will visit Fort Worth, Houston and the U.S.-Mexico border town of McAllen in Texas — a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1976 or even elected one to statewide office since 1994. Harris defended the choice to spend several of the election’s closing days campaigning in traditionally Republican states.
“There are people all over this country who want to know that they are being seen and heard on some of the most challenging times in the history of our country,” she told reporters in Tucson.
Texas was long so reliably red that top national Democrats visited only to hold fundraisers, then spent their hauls in places thought to be more competitive.
“I am really grateful for the attention that they have given Texas because it has been so long since a presidential campaign gave this state a look,” said Beto O’Rourke a former Texas congressman and onetime presidential hopeful. But he declined to predict that Biden would win the state, saying only “There is a possibility,” and even that was contingent on turnout statewide continuing to break records.
Biden heads later in the week to three more states Trump won in 2016, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, where he’ll hold a joint Saturday rally with former President Barack Obama.
Democrats point to a larger number of their party members returning absentee ballots — results that could be decisive since more people are likely to vote by mail during the pandemic. Trump’s team argues that enough of its supporters will vote on Election Day to overwhelm any Biden advantage.
Around 71.5 million people nationwide have now voted in advance, either by casting early, in-person ballots or voting by mail, according to an Associated Press analysis. That already represents far more than the advance ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.
Weissert reported from Washington, Jaffe from Wilmington. Associated Press writers Michelle Price in Bull City, Arizona and Kathleen Ronayne in Las Vegas contributed to this report.