President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will campaign in three U.S. states that will play a key role in the November election on Wednesday, the morning after a chaotic debate marked by interruptions and recriminations.
Trump deflected an opportunity to condemn white supremacists and again refused to say if he would accept the election results in Tuesday night’s first 2020 debate, two moments that could give Biden fresh ammunition.
The first of three televised matchups represented one of Trump’s few remaining chances to change the trajectory of a race that most national opinion polls show him losing, as the majority of Americans disapprove of his handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial injustice.
The Republican Trump, 74, will spend the day in Minnesota – one of the few states his campaign is targeting that voted Democratic in 2016 – with a fundraiser in the afternoon before a rally in Duluth.
Biden, 77, and his wife, Jill, will embark on an all-day train tour through a half-dozen cities in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including counties that Trump won four years ago on the strength of working-class white voters.
Pennsylvania, which narrowly voted for Trump in 2016, is seen by many strategists as the most crucial of the six most competitive states that will likely decide the election outcome, which also include Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of Pennsylvania gave Biden a slight advantage there.
Ohio, which Trump carried by 8 percentage points in his 2016 defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, is among the Republican-leaning states that Biden hopes to put into play in November.
Tuesday’s debate, which frequently devolved under Trump’s constant interjections and Biden’s angry rejoinders, appeared unlikely to significantly alter the campaign’s dynamics.
Biden has held a modest but steady lead in national voter surveys for months amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, although polls in the battleground states show a closer contest.
With less than five weeks to the Nov. 3 Election Day, the debate represented one of the few remaining opportunities for Trump to reshape the contours of the race. Already more than 1.3 million voters in 15 states have cast early ballots, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.
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The campaign has been roiled by major developments in the last few weeks, including the death of liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Trump’s nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed her, as well as the New York Times bombshell report that Trump paid virtually no income taxes for most of the last two decades.
Biden has argued that Barrett’s confirmation would spell the end of the Affordable Care Act, costing tens of millions of Americans their health insurance – a point he emphasized during the debate.
The Trump administration is backing a lawsuit brought by Republican-controlled states to invalidate the ACA, also known as Obamacare, in a case the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear one week after the election.
During a segment on race relations, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump whether he would denounce white supremacists and call on them not to add to the violence that has occurred amid protests in some U.S. cities.
Rather than offer a forceful rebuke, Trump pivoted to attacking left-wing agitators known as antifa, drawing criticism from some social justice leaders.
Trump also declined to say he would accept the election results, repeating his unfounded assertion that widespread voting by mail would lead to massive fraud. Experts have said such fraud is extremely rare in the United States.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)