Trump, Biden Make Closing Arguments To An Anxious U.S. Electorate

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ACROSS AMERICA — President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden visited several battleground states in the final hours before Americans cast their ballots Tuesday in the most tempestuous and consequential election in decades.

Each characterized the other as unfit for office and painted America in apocalyptic terms if the other were to win. In his sharpest terms yet, the incumbent president threatened to go to the courts to stop the counting of ballots arriving after Election Day. Trump has insisted results must be known on election night, a requirement that has never been the standard under a vote-counting system that has worked well in the United States for many years.

In more typical years, TV networks often project a winner election night or even early the next morning, giving Americans a sense of the election outcome before they go to bed. Television networks this year have pledged to exercise patience and caution in delivering the results, and they may not be able to project a winner until Wednesday or even later.

“Frankly, the well-being of the country depends on us being cautious, disciplined and unassailably correct,” Noah Oppenheim, the NBC News president, told The New York Times. “We are committed to getting this right.”

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Control of the Senate also hangs in the balance in Tuesday’s election, when several key Republican senators will learn the cost of their stalwart support for the president in light of a national shift of mood against him.

“I don’t see how we hold it,” Chip Felkel, a Republican strategist in South Carolina who opposes the president, told The Associated Press, of his party's chances of holding its majority in the Senate. “You’d be hard-pressed to say we don’t have a Trump problem.”

[RECIRC]More than 100 million Americans already have voted ahead of Election Day, voting early and by mail to ensure their voices are heard. Tens of millions more will stand in line Tuesday to vote the old-fashioned way in an election both changed and defined by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused more than 231,000 U.S. deaths, put 20 million people out of work and is surging in infection rates not previously seen.

The tension leading up to Election Day has been palpable.

For months, Trump has claimed without evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud, has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose and has recruited thousands of poll watchers in the first presidential election since the sunset of a ban preventing the Republican National Committee from organizing poll-watching efforts. Police are worried that far-right militias who have heeded Trump’s call to show up the polls will use force.

“There is a serious threat that militias and armed vigilantes will be at polling places and will pose a danger to voters,” Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Boston Globe.

After several militia members were accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month, the Department of Homeland Security warned that domestic extremists “might target events related to the 2020 presidential campaigns, the election itself, election results, or the post-election period.”

Complaints about voter intimidation, electioneering and shenanigans at the polls are always high, but this year they are “off the charts from what election officials are hearing from voters,” said Tammy Patrick, the senior adviser for the Democracy Fund’s election program and an expert offering analysis for the Electionland project, run by the nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica. Patch is one of many partner news organization's in the project.

Some Trump supporters are giving rise to fears about voter intimidation and violence on Election Day. The FBI is investigating after a “Trump train” of supporters reportedly slowed a Biden-Harris campaign bus to 20 mph on a Texas interstate and tried to force it off the road over the weekend.

On the other side, dozens of activist groups are planning “Protect the Results” rallies in U.S. cities for Wednesday if Trump interferes with mail-in ballot counting or disputes the legitimacy of the election in other ways.

National polling gives Biden a roughly 8 percent lead in national polling, but Trump could still win the electoral map, as he did in 2016, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. The political analysis and forecast site puts Biden’s chances at 90 percent, but says the uncertainty depends on how both candidates perform in battleground states with big electoral vote totals.

“And indeed — although nobody needs any reminders of this after 2016 — Trump can win,” Silver wrote on his site Monday. “All the election models are bullish on Biden, but they are united in that a Trump win is still plausible despite his seemingly steep deficit in polls.”

The current 8-point spread may seem to put Biden in a comfortable position, but he has been downplaying the lead, especially in battleground states with big electoral vote totals.

Biden is leading in Florida, where 29 electoral votes are at stake, but only by 1 point, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. And Trump appears to have a 1.2-point advantage in Texas, which has 38 electoral votes.

“If Biden wins the popular vote by 2 to 3 percentage points, the Electoral College is roughly a toss-up,” Silver wrote on his FiveThirtyEight site. “But if Biden wins the popular vote by less than 2 points, Trump is a fairly heavy favorite to win the election.

“Even popular vote margins of up to 6 points are not entirely safe for Biden if his votes are distributed in exactly the wrong way. So you can see why an 8- or 9-point lead in the popular vote shouldn’t make Biden feel that secure; despite being a landslide margin, it’s also only a few points removed from the inflection point where the Electoral College starts to become competitive.”

Biden spent Monday barnstorming Pennsylvania, where the RealClearPolitics polling average gives him a 4.2-point advantage over Trump.

Trump had campaign stops in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Traverse City, Michigan; Kenosha, Wisconsin; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, he is leading Biden in Iowa, Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, but well within the margin of error.

Trump has issued dystopian claims about what will happen under a Biden-Harris administration, warning in a campaign stop in Iowa the Democrats “will turn America into a prison state locking you down while letting the far-left rioters roam free to loot and burn.”

Biden painted Election Day as an opportunity to put “an end to a presidency that’s fanned the flames of hate.”

“When America is heard," Biden told supporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, "I believe the message is going to be clear: It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home.”

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This article originally appeared on the White House Patch

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