President Trump, hoping to recapture the energy that lifted him to a surprise win four years ago, rallied crowds in Ohio and Wisconsin on Saturday, as he and Joseph R. Biden Jr. focused on battleground states in the final days of a race shadowed by surging coronavirus cases.
Arriving in Circleville, Ohio, on Saturday evening, Mr. Trump played down the threat of the virus, pointing to his own family’s experience as an example of why a pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans is not so bad. He also reminisced about his victory in the bellwether state four years ago, raising the question of why he had chosen to campaign there 10 days before Election Day.
The answer: an erosion of his support in suburbs like Circleville, outside Columbus. While exit polls four years ago showed Mr. Trump winning the suburbs in Ohio by 20 points, a Fox poll earlier this month put him 10 points behind Mr. Biden.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump planned to campaign in New Hampshire, the lone state on his weekend itinerary that he did not carry in 2016, as well as in Maine.
Mr. Biden had no in-person events scheduled for Sunday but planned to speak at a virtual concert in support of his campaign.
Mr. Biden spent much of Saturday in Pennsylvania, holding two drive-in rallies as he tried to flip a major electoral prize that Mr. Trump narrowly won four years ago.
Mr. Biden traveled to the Philadelphia suburbs, where he hopes to improve upon Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016, propelled by college-educated voters turned off by Mr. Trump. Then he flew to Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania, a county that Mr. Trump won by double digits after former President Barack Obama had won it twice.
Speaking from a stage decorated with pumpkins and hay bales, Mr. Biden lay into Mr. Trump about a number of subjects, including his handling of the coronavirus, noting that more new cases were reported across the country on Friday than on any other day since the pandemic began. Mr. Biden also tried to fend off attacks from Mr. Trump over his position on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
“I’m not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else,” he said. “And I’m going to protect Pennsylvania jobs, period.”
President Trump is returning on Sunday to New Hampshire, the state that delivered his first win of the 2016 primaries, with a campaign in need of a similar good turn of fortune as he remains stubbornly stuck behind Joseph R. Biden Jr. in nearly every national poll and most key battleground state polls.
But New Hampshire, where Mr. Trump lost by just 2,736 votes in 2016, is unlikely to be as welcoming to the president as it was in the last presidential election.
A recent poll from Suffolk University found Mr. Biden ahead of Mr. Trump in New Hampshire, 51 percent to 41 percent. And the New Hampshire Union Leader, a reliably conservative newspaper anchored in Manchester, recently endorsed Mr. Biden for president.
“President Trump is not always 100 percent wrong, but he is 100 percent wrong for America,” the paper wrote in the editorial.
The rally in the state marks Mr. Trump’s second of the general election, having visited there immediately after the Republican National Convention in August. Mr. Biden has not visited the state during the general election.
Mr. Trump’s in-person rally comes while the country is experiencing record cases of the coronavirus as another wave of the pandemic engulfs the country. On Saturday, several members of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, including his chief of staff Marc Short, tested positive for the virus.
Later on Sunday, Mr. Trump will travel to Bangor, Maine, a state that splits its Electoral College votes by congressional district. Bangor, the third biggest city in the state, sits in the Maine’s second congressional district, where polls show a tight race between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. Earlier this month, Mr. Pence held a campaign event in Hermon, a town just outside of Bangor.
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, falsely suggested on Sunday that it was futile to try to control the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 224,000 Americans and is surging across the country.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mr. Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about the lack of mask wearing at President Trump’s campaign events. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”
Face masks can significantly reduce coronavirus transmission, and wearing them is one of the most basic precautions public health experts recommend while scientists work to develop a vaccine and better treatments. But Mr. Trump and his aides have repeatedly laid out a false choice, implying that the only two options are to flout public health guidelines as he has, or to “lock everybody down” and “quarantine all of America,” as Mr. Meadows put it on Sunday.
Mr. Meadows also denied that he had tried to suppress news of a coronavirus outbreak within Vice President Mike Pence’s inner circle, saying he had acted out of concern about “sharing personal information.”
Several aides to Mr. Pence, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, have tested positive in the past few days. Yet, even though Mr. Pence was in close contact with Mr. Short, he is continuing to travel for campaign events — a decision Mr. Meadows defended by claiming the vice president was performing “essential” duties that exempted him from public health guidelines calling for people to quarantine after exposure to the virus.
The outbreak is the second in the White House since the beginning of October, when President Trump announced that he had Covid-19. Infections have surged across the United States, and on Friday the country set a single-day record for new confirmed cases.
Despite this, an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday morning found that Republicans were less likely to be concerned about the virus now than they were at the beginning of the month. Sixty percent of Republicans said they were somewhat or very concerned that they or someone they knew would be infected, compared with 70 percent who said the same in an ABC/Ipsos poll in early October.
Democrats moved in the opposite direction: 96 percent said they were somewhat or very concerned, compared with 86 percent in early October.
The Senate will reconvene on Sunday to push Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the brink of confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Despite fierce Democratic objections, Republicans are expected to win a vote early Sunday afternoon to cut off debate on the nomination and lock in a vote Monday evening to send her to the Supreme Court.
The gathering is anticipated to be a more forceful show than on Saturday, when a dourly divided Senate met in a rare session to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But the debate was diverted to discussing Democrats’ $2.4 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, and had very little to do with Judge Barrett.
The anticipated confirmation vote on Monday will deliver Republicans a coveted 6-to3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court just 8 days before the election.
And in a boost to Senate Republicans, Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who has vocally opposed filling the vacant seat on the court until the next president is chosen, said on Saturday she would nonetheless vote to confirm Judge Barrett next week. She still planned, however, to join Democrats on Sunday in an attempt to filibuster the nomination.
“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point,” Ms. Murkowski said in a speech on the Senate floor, “I do not hold it against her as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility.”
After meeting with Judge Barrett, Ms. Murkowski said she came away impressed and was unwilling to punish a qualified nominee because her party insisted on moving ahead with a vote just days before “a pitched presidential election.”
Ms. Murkowski’s support means that only one Republican will defect when the roll is called on Monday: Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a tough re-election battle.
After a boisterous clash over President Trump’s nominee on Friday, the Saturday session was quite a bit more somber. Democrats tried to force consideration of their $2.4 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, legislation granting protections from deportation to Dreamers, election security and anti-corruption measures and a handful of other policy proposals they believed might catch the attention of voters. The result was a debate that had very little to do with Judge Barrett.
“All we ask during the most desperate, desperate of times is to debate something that really matters to the American people instead of rushing through a judge, a Supreme Court nominee, when the American people want the decision to be made by them, not by Republican senators,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said as he asked for a vote on the stimulus bill.
Deep in the suburbs northeast of Fort Worth, Texas, Democrats trying to win the State House for the first time in years have been getting help from a surprising source: Republicans.
For 16 years, until he left office in 2013, Todd A. Smith was a Republican representing these suburbs in the Texas House of Representatives. But when it came time to decide whom he would support for his old seat, Mr. Smith said he had no hesitation — he threw his endorsement to the Democrat in the race, Jeff Whitfield.
“This is no longer my Republican Party,” Mr. Smith said last week while sitting outside his house, which has a “Republicans for Biden 2020” sign on the front lawn.
“This is the Trump party,” he said. “If you give me a reasonable Republican and a crazy Democrat, then I will still vote for the Republican. But if you give me a lunatic Republican and a reasonable Democrat, then I’m going to vote for the Democrat, and that applies in the presidential race, and it applies in the Whitfield race.”
After a generation under unified Republican control, Texas is a battleground at every level of government this year. President Trump and Senator John Cornyn are fighting for their political lives, and five Republican-held congressional seats are in danger of flipping.
But some of the most consequential political battles in Texas are taking place across two dozen contested races for the Texas State House, which Republicans have controlled since 2003. To win a majority, Democrats must flip nine of the chamber’s 150 seats.
Control of the Texas House comes with huge implications beyond the state’s borders. A Democratic State House majority in Texas would give the party one lever of power in the 2021 redistricting process, when the state is expected to receive as many as three new seats in Congress. It would also give the majority a voice in drawing Texas state legislative lines for the next decade.
“Flipping the Texas House this year can be the key that unlocks a Democratic future in Texas,” said John Bisognano, the executive director of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “With fair maps, Democrats will be able to compete all over the state and build a deep bench of candidates who can run and win statewide.”
Bill Johnson knew, before he reached out to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign last spring, that things had changed between the former vice president and the nation’s police unions. A once-close alliance had frayed amid clashes over police brutality and racism in the justice system. Still, Mr. Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, invited Mr. Biden to address the group as it weighed its 2020 endorsement.
For weeks, Mr. Johnson said, the campaign was politely noncommittal. Finally, he recalled, on the day NAPO was deciding its endorsement, he heard from a campaign aide asking if there was still time to send a message. “Not to be a jerk, but we were literally starting the meeting,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s kind of a little late.”
The police federation, which twice endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket and stayed neutral in 2016, backed President Trump in July. Soon after, its president told the Republican convention that Mr. Biden and Senator Kamala Harris of California were “the most radical anti-police ticket in history.”
That attack marked a low point in a political relationship that had endured for most of Mr. Biden’s career.
If elected, Mr. Biden would bring to the White House a long career’s worth of relationships with police chiefs, union leaders and policy experts that is unmatched by any other major figure in the Democratic Party, according to more than a dozen current and former law-enforcement officials who have worked with Mr. Biden in various capacities.
During a late-summer speech in Pittsburgh, Mr. Biden pledged to draw both racial-justice activists and police leaders “to the table” to forge durable solutions.
Yet the 2020 election has also underscored the difficulty that Mr. Biden may have in achieving that goal. He is presenting himself as both a criminal-justice reformer and a friend to diligent police officers, a critic of racism and rioting alike.
Emma Gonzalez, an activist and one of the survivors of the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is participating in Vote With Us, a three-hour virtual rally on Sunday that is aimed at boosting turnout among young people in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.
The event, which will be streamed on YouTube and other social media channels, will emphasize the importance of voting early and safely in person this year. It will also include a preview of the forthcoming documentary “Us Kids,” which follows Gonzalez and other Parkland students who became activists ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Gonzalez, who uses they/them pronouns, is voting in their first presidential election this year. “There’s definitely a relationship between various forms of activism, and voting is a form of activism, and political demonstrations is a form of civic duty,” they said. “They’re all very closely related.”
During the virtual rally, Gonzalez and other organizers plan to answer questions about the documentary and encourage young people to vote.
“We add so much to the conversation,” Gonzalez said.
When residents of Gaston County heard that President Trump was planning a rally in their community, they reacted with a mix of small-town pride and general confusion. He won the county in 2016 with 64 percent of the vote; have things gotten so bad for Mr. Trump in the suburbs of America that he needed to spend time here two weeks before Election Day?
“What I’m seeing in my online communities is that people immediately laughed,” said Courtney Phillips, a stay-at-home mother who has been involved in grass-roots organizing for the Biden-Harris campaign. “Why is he coming here? Is he really worried about Gaston County?” Tens of thousands of people ultimately turned out for Wednesday night’s rally, indicating that this red county, at least, had an energized Trump base.
In this final sprint of the campaign, Mr. Trump is now holding up to three rallies a day to try to “juice” his base, in the words of advisers, as he bleeds support among the suburban voters who helped fuel his victory in 2016. His trip to this bedrock Trump county, and to Wisconsin and Ohio suburbs and exurbs on Saturday where his once-solid support is sliding, reflect his need to energize as much of his base as he can since many swing voters are now behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and there are few undecided voters left.
Gastonia is only about a half-hour west of downtown Charlotte, but once you cross the county line at the Catawba River, you are in die-hard Trump country. The only Democrat elected countywide here is the sheriff, who shares the president’s positions on guns and immigration.
Four years ago, Mr. Trump’s outsized win in this district helped him toward an overall victory in North Carolina by a slim margin of 3.6 percentage points. A New York Times/Siena College poll this month of likely voters in the state showed Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump by four points.
Mr. Trump’s appearance in this town of 77,000 on Wednesday night was not intended to win back the suburban women voters who have drifted away from him over the past four years. That is a hill too steep to climb at this point, in this state: Some internal polls show Mr. Trump trailing Mr. Biden by double digits in the suburbs. The rally’s purpose, campaign aides said, was to activate his base.
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In Alabama, a long line of voters waited in the rain outside a courthouse, as a dance troupe in pink masks, pink T-shirts and clear plastic ponchos kept them entertained. In New York, voters waiting to cast ballots kept themselves occupied by knitting, sipping coffee or thumbing their smartphones. Outside a polling place in Ohio, the line to get inside was so long it snaked along the shoulder of a road.
Across the country, Americans have been transfixed by images of voters enduring huge lines to cast ballots, as states across the country have begun opening up sites for early, in-person voting.
The lines — many in urban areas — are a reflection of voter enthusiasm generated by the Trump presidency, which has inspired fervent passion among the president’s base, and a significant backlash.
But amid concerns about the coronavirus, most experts believe the election will feature more Americans voting outside of the in-person ballot box than ever before. Voting by mail has already been underway in multiple states for weeks.
More than 56 million ballots have already been cast in the 2020 election, according to a Times analysis, more than the previous early turnout record set in 2016. Roughly 86 million absentee ballots have been requested or sent to voters.
Several states — including Georgia and North Carolina — have already broken early voting turnout records.
But long lines at polling sites do not mean that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is assured victory.
Both parties expect Mr. Trump’s supporters to favor in-person voting on Election Day, Nov. 3. That’s because Democrats tend to live in more urban areas and have longer wait times. It is also because Mr. Trump and Republicans have railed against mail-in voting.