Trump and Biden hit the trail in a charged election week
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Washington (AFP) –
President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden hit the ground Sunday in the swing states that will decide the US election, as the campaign turns increasingly vicious 16 days before voting.
Trump, scrambling to make up lost ground, is on a furious multi-state barnstorming tour hopping from Nevada to California and then back to Nevada for a day of rallies and fundraising.
Biden, who has charted a more reserved itinerary shaped by pandemic concerns, was flying to North Carolina for an event in Durham before holding a virtual meeting with African American faith leaders.
Both men, who each went to church on Sunday morning, are seeking to rouse their political bases and appeal to the seemingly small number of undecided voters in an election that could revolve on voter turnout.
One key moment to reach out to the American people comes this week with the candidates' final nationally televised debate, on Thursday evening in Nashville, Tennessee.
Their first debate descended into a chaotic stream of interruptions, head-shaking and angry rejoinders; the second was replaced by dueling town-hall meetings after Trump refused to debate virtually.
The final debate will be face-to-face, with topics including "Race in America," "Climate Change" and "Fighting Covid-19" set to ensure a combative evening.
If there was any doubt about the 74-year-old president's own recovery from the virus, his packed campaigning schedule appears to belie it, and his message has, if anything, grown more pointed.
- Trump trails in polls -
On Sunday, Trump again raised a disputed allegation that messages on a laptop computer belonging to Biden's son Hunter implicated the former vice president in corrupt links to Ukraine.
"Hunter Biden’s laptop is a disaster for the entire Biden family, but especially for his father, Joe. It is now a proven fact," Trump said on Twitter.
This, he added, made it "impossible" for Biden to "ever assume the office of the President!"
Biden's campaign has repeatedly rejected the allegations of corruption, and the candidate himself has angrily dismissed it as a "smear campaign."
But Trump has forcefully pursued the message.
In a rally Saturday in Muskegon, Michigan he called Biden "a criminal" and a "national security risk" and even joined an enthusiastic crowd in chants of "Lock him up."
Trump also pursued US culture war themes, saying that the Democrats wanted to "erase American history, purge American values and destroy the American way of life."
With the president trailing in polls, some analysts say he should instead focus on America's economic prospects, which Trump considers his strong point.
Nearly 220,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, the world's worst total, and the outbreak is now spreading in many states at rates unseen in months -- a national crisis that Trump largely avoids in his speeches.
Polls show that an overwhelming majority of voters disapprove of his erratic handling of the pandemic, and Biden has made it a core theme, promising to bring what he terms more sober, less politicized leadership.
Ahead of Trump's Nevada events, Biden said the president "needs to answer for his failed response to COVID-19 (and) his refusal to pass additional financial relief for families desperately in need of help.
"Donald Trump didn't take necessary precautions to protect himself and others. How can we trust him to protect Nevada families?"
Trump has dismissed his weak polling data, while Biden's supporters are also wary about over-confidence in an election that could tilt on a narrow margin of victory in a single state such as Florida.
- 'It's got to stop' -
Democrats assailed Trump on Sunday not just for his attacks on Biden but on Michigan Governor Whitmer, the recent target of a kidnapping plot by a heavily armed right-wing militia group.
The president is "incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism. It is wrong. It's got to end. It is dangerous," Whitmer told NBC's Meet the Press.
Democrat Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, has been negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over a stimulus relief bill to alleviate the deep economic strains imposed by the pandemic.
More than 25 million Americans have already cast ballots in unprecedented early voting, caused in part by the pandemic.
© 2020 AFP