Race still a toss-up in Florida, North Carolina, Arizona • 93 million ballots already cast • Businesses board up ahead of potential unrest
By REUTERS, OMRI NAHMIAS
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 31, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)
Two days before Election Day on Sunday, US President Donald Trump launched a campaign sprint across battleground states, starting with Michigan – a state that will be crucial to the outcome of the election if he is to defy the polls and fend off Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Trump’s schedule includes planned stops in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida while Biden is due to campaign in Pennsylvania.
Buffeted by snow flurries in the town of Washington north of Detroit, Trump wore his trademark red cap emblazoned with the words “Make America Great Again” as he addressed a boisterous crowd on a cold and blustery morning.
After the crowd loudly chanted, “We love you,” Trump responded, “I love you, too. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here because it’s freezing out here.”
Trump faces what appears to be a narrow path to re-election. Polls show him close to Biden in enough battleground states that could give him the 270 votes needed to win in the state-by-state Electoral College count that determines who will win the White House.
The race remains a toss-up in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, according to Reuters/Ipsos poll, while Trump trails by five percentage points in Pennsylvania and nine percentage points in Michigan and Wisconsin.
There has already been a record-setting number of early votes cast across the country either in-person or by mail – 93 million, according to the US Elections Project – a phenomenon expected to boost Biden’s chances. This represents about 68% of the total ballots counted in the 2016 US election.
Biden, who has made hammering the president’s response to the pandemic a main theme in his speeches, is scheduled to campaign again on Sunday in Pennsylvania, one of the most critical of the battleground states and one that Trump won in his 2016 upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
On Sunday and Monday, Trump is due to stage 10 rallies – five a day – making it the campaign’s busiest stretch. On Monday, his campaign has events planned in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and two in Michigan. Trump will close out the two-day swing with a late-night rally on Monday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same location where he finished his campaign in 2016.
MEANWHILE, BUSINESSES across the country – from Washington to New York, Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles – were boarded up over the weekend, bracing for possible civil unrest following election night. At least three construction crews were working to board up restaurants and hotels around Washington’s McPherson Square, not far from the White House.
Some stores, such as Walgreens, were boarded up, and a sign that was attached to the boards read “we are open.”
According to WUSA9, the DC Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to business owners warning them that “First Amendment activities have the potential to disrupt business operations.”
Outside the White House, at the “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” visitors were strolling around, as the road remained closed for cars.
Charles Mouebe, a data analyst from Montgomery County, Maryland, who was visiting the plaza with his son, said it felt “a bit eerie” to be in downtown Washington at the moment. “I was just driving with my son and we’re just noticing that a lot of the stores are boarded up. And so people are really gearing up for what could be a sort of a moment of tension,” he said.
“The best outcome would be that if anybody wins, he wins cleanly [with] clear results. If there is any challenge [to the results], that’s where I think it’s going to be contentious and people will be on the streets – I’m sure” he added.
Edwina Findley, an actress from California, said she came to celebrate her birthday weekend in her hometown of Washington. “I came here because this is my birthday weekend and I want to celebrate in my hometown, but it also was not lost on me – the significance of this weekend in relationship to our nation,” she said. “So we specifically wanted to come to the White House while we were here. Not only to see, not only to lay eyes on the Black Lives Matter mural, but also to pray.
“Seeing the restaurants and businesses boarded up, that’s a very surreal feeling because normally Washington DC is bustling, it’s busy,” she continued. “[Now] it feels like a ghost town. And I think, obviously, one part of it is COVID – that’s a huge part of it. And then I think another part is the huge culture clash that’s happened here,” Findley said.
“The hope is that regardless of which way it goes, there will be peace in our nation.”
Angel Brown, a marketing director from Virginia Beach, also came to visit the nation’s capital ahead of Election Day. She addressed the situation and said that “it tells us the state of where we are right now. Currently, there’s such divisiveness in our country, and we’ve got to come together, but more importantly, we’ve got to exercise our frustrations and our angers and our concerns in a positive way to where our local business owners don’t have to board [up]. A positive way is through freedom of speech, not necessarily being disruptive or destructive in terms of property.
“I don’t think things are going to be quiet [after the election] because our country is in a divisive state right now,” she added. “[But] I think we have to come together. It’s going to take all of us: those who support 45 [Trump] and those who don’t.”