WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - With three weeks until Election Day, a handful of swing states is expected to determine if former Vice President Joe Biden can deny President Donald Trump a second term. That has the rival campaigns focusing on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania at the start of a critical week.
“The corrupt political class is desperate to regain their power by any means necessary,” Trump said Monday night in Sanford, Florida. “We’re the ones standing in their way.”
Trump accused Biden of being owned by “radical globalists” and having handed control of the Democratic Party to “the socialists, the Marxists and the left-wing extremists.”
It was the president’s first campaign rally since his hospitalization for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“Everyone is going to have the same damn thing,” Trump said of his coronavirus treatment that included an experimental, hard-to-produce and expensive cocktail of antibodies, as well as an intravenous anti-viral medication currently authorized only for emergency use.
“I feel so powerful. I'll walk into that audience,” said Trump, the Republican Party incumbent who declared he was now immune from the virus. “I'll kiss everyone in that audience. I'll kiss the guys and the beautiful women.”
Few in the airport rally crowd of thousands, which was packed together outdoors for Trump’s hour-long speech, wore a mask.
While Air Force One was in flight to Florida, the White House released a memo from the president’s physician, Sean Conley, stating Trump tested negative for the coronavirus for two consecutive days, but he did not specify which days.
The medical team’s assessment is “that the president is not infectious to others,” said Conley, who accompanied Trump to Florida on Monday.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Ohio on Monday.
Pence’s speech, at a construction company in Columbus, was interrupted several times in the opening minutes by protesters. One man shouted questions to the vice president, including "How do you call yourself a Christian?" before being rebuked loudly by the crowd and escorted out.
The demonstration was organized by a progressive group founded by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, according to a political marketing company.
Democratic presidential candidate Biden also visited Ohio on Monday.
“The blinders have been taken off the American people,” Biden told union autoworkers in Toledo at a drive-in rally where the honking of about 30 car horns replaced applause. “They’ve seen what the combination of the pandemic, the economic crisis, the racial inequality we’re facing and what’s going on internationally. They’re ready to step up. They know we have to change.”
Later in the day, Biden spoke in Cincinnati, where he talked about the nearly 215,000 people in the country who have died of COVID-19 and predictions that another 200,000 might be dead by the end of January, “all because the president is only worried about one thing — the stock market — because he refused to follow science.”
On Tuesday, Biden heads to Florida, while Trump is to hold a rally in Pennsylvania.
According to the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, the challenger enjoys a comfortable 7-percentage-point lead in Pennsylvania, considered one of the most critical states by both campaigns. In Florida, Biden has a smaller 3.7-percentage-point lead over the president.
"We're winning by a lot more now than we were four years ago," Trump said Monday evening, disputing the polls in Florida.
The two candidates are essentially tied in Ohio, based on the average of recent surveys, a state Trump won by 8 percentage points against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In that election four years ago, Trump narrowly beat Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania.
Florida and Ohio are crucial for Trump's reelection, and Pennsylvania is important for a Biden win, said Spencer Kimball, the director of Emerson College Polling.
“No Republican wins the presidency without Ohio and the way Michigan is looking, Florida could give Biden a victory by itself,” Kimball, also an assistant professor at the college, told VOA. “If Pennsylvania stays with Trump, that would be tough for Biden as his native state and likely suggests he will do poorly in the Midwest.”
Regardless of which candidate captures the most ballots nationwide, the key to victory for the presidency is earning a minimum of 270 electoral votes, determined by the combined number of the state’s members of the U.S. House and Senate.
Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania have a combined total of 67 electoral votes.
California has the most electoral votes at 55 — a state in which Biden is assured victory, according to pollsters.
Texas has 38 electoral votes and most political observers expect Trump to repeat his 2016 victory there, although Biden is pulling within 5 points in some recent polls.