President Donald Trump entered his final day of campaigning for reelection Monday by dismissing polls that show him headed for a humiliating loss, while Democrat Joe Biden urged Americans to draw a line under the “chaos” of the last four years.
“I watch these fake polls,” Trump, 74, told a crowd in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on the eve of Election Day. “We’re going to win anyway.”
The Republican’s gripe at pollsters — combined with angry swipes at everybody from journalists, social media CEOs, his defeated 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton and Democratic opponents in Congress — reflected the bitter mood as he faces the possibility of being removed from the White House after one term.
When he wasn’t complaining about his “crooked” opponents, Trump focused back on his months-long attempts to paint Biden as “sleepy” and “corrupt,” leading the crowd to chant: “Lock him up!”
And Trump sought to recapture the spirit of his shock win four years ago by casting himself as the rebel against an “arrogant, corrupt, ruthless” establishment.
“You elected an outsider as president who is finally putting America first,” he told the crowd. “Get out and vote, that’s all I ask.”
But Biden, who has built his campaign on casting Trump as a reckless failure during the coronavirus pandemic, scents victory.
Opinion polls give him small but steady advantages in all the swing states that tip close elections and even threatening Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas.
“It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home,” Biden, 77, told supporters in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We’re done with the chaos! We’re done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility,” said Biden.
– Fears of violence, chaos –
Tuesday is formally Election Day but in reality it marks the culmination of a drawn-out election month.
With a huge expansion in mail-in voting to safeguard against the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 95 million people are estimated to have already cast ballots, highlighting the raw passion in what is turning into a referendum on the norm-shattering Republican’s first term.
All over central Washington, businesses boarded up windows in expectation of unrest and NBC News reported that a new “unscalable” fence was planned around the White House, which has been behind growing layers of fortifications since a summer of anti-racism protests.
While the Trump administration warned of left-wing extremists causing havoc, the president’s supporters made their own show of force, driving in caravans of flag-bedecked pick-up trucks and blocking roads around the country.
The FBI said it was investigating an incident in Texas where Trump supporters in trucks swarmed around a Biden campaign bus while it was on a highway.
Biden was closing up his startlingly low key campaign with socially distanced events in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the fiercest battleground of them all.
Pop superstar Lady Gaga was to join the 77-year-old, while former president Barack Obama was lending his own political star power by rallying for Biden in Florida and Georgia — a steady Republican state targeted by the Democrats.
Trump, who mocks Biden’s modestly attended events as proof that the opinion polls must be wrong, was capping his closing surge of 14 rallies in three days with visits to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
The last rally will be in Grand Rapids — the site where Trump delivered the final speech of his victorious 2016 campaign and where he hopes he will once more spark an upset.
– Trump attacks election integrity –
The president, who for months has been falsely claiming that mail-in votes will lead to mass fraud, upped the ante in the final days by suggesting that he will push to disqualify votes that arrive after Tuesday — a practice which is in fact legal in several of the key states, provided that the ballots are postmarked in time.
Together with Republican attempts to get a court to throw out more than 100,000 ballots in Texas and other aggressive legal measures, Trump’s hostility to the election rules is raising fears that he will try to declare premature victory or refuse to accept defeat.
The Axios news site reported Sunday that Trump has told confidants he will declare victory right away if it looked like he was ahead.
Trump called it a “false report” but repeated his argument that “I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election.”