President Donald Trump will take his re-election push to Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday before launching a tour of western states to shore up political support as he trails Democratic rival Joe Biden in national polls.
Days after recovering from the coronavirus and just two and a half weeks before the election on Nov. 3, Trump is holding rallies around the country to try to secure the states he won four years ago.
The former New York businessman prevailed in Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016 but polls show him running behind Biden, the former vice president, in those states this year.
Trump’s advisers have long seen those two states, as well as Pennsylvania, as key to his chances of securing another election victory. Trump is also playing defense in traditional Republican strongholds, including Arizona, where he plans to campaign on Monday, and Georgia, where he campaigned on Friday night.
Biden, who has stepped up travel in recent weeks after keeping a reduced schedule because of the pandemic, plans to remain in his home state of Delaware on Saturday.
His running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, is also eschewing travel for a few days after an aide came down with COVID-19.
U.S. presidential elections are determined by electoral votes, allotted to U.S. states and territories based largely on their populations, rather than a tally of the popular vote nationwide. Candidates must get 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win.
Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes, Michigan has 16 and Arizona has 11. Nevada, where Trump will campaign on Sunday, has 6 electoral votes.
Capturing those votes will come down in part to convincing voters who is best placed to respond to the continuing coronavirus crisis.
Biden has criticized Trump sharply for his response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 217,000 people in the United States alone.
Trump, who usually avoids wearing a mask and whose rallies include thousands of people without social distancing, has said the country is turning the corner on the disease despite an increase in infections and projections of a greater death toll to come.
Biden said on Friday that Trump had been untruthful and negligent in his response to the virus.
“We’re so much better than this as a country,” he said at a campaign event in Detroit. “Despite the crisis we face, we have an enormous opportunity to build back better.”
Trump has praised his own response to the virus and argued that Biden would shut down the U.S. economy needlessly to fight it. “We saved millions of lives,” Trump said at a rally in Georgia on Friday. “It’s amazing what we’ve been able to do.”
Trump’s string of campaign stops comes ahead of a critical week next week. The two candidates will face each other in their second and final debate on Thursday.
Biden told reporters on Friday night he was not engaged in intense debate preparation. “No, I’m just listening to him (Trump),” Biden said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)