© Reuters. Final debate of the 2020 US presidential campaign in Nashville
By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON / WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden will sprint through the final eleven days of the U.S. presidential race on Friday after battling the COVID-19 pandemic and personal integrity in their second and final debate.
The 74-year-old Trump will hold two rallies in the battlefield state of Florida, where opinion polls show a close race. 77-year-old Biden will deliver a speech in his home state of Delaware about his plans to recover from the pandemic.
According to the University of Florida election project, more than 49 million Americans have cast ballots in person or by mail. That is more than a third of the total number of votes cast in 2016. This leaves Trump, who is lagging behind in national polls, with fewer opportunities to change his mind before the November 3rd vote ends.
Trump has often criticized the postal vote as being unreliable, and his campaign has combated government efforts to expand the practice, which analysts say is as safe as any other method.
Trump himself voted in the last election by mail, but plans to vote in person on Saturday in Florida, the White House said.
Analysts gave Trump credit for a relatively low-key performance in the debate, but said it likely didn't change the dynamics of the race fundamentally.
The pandemic has turned campaign traditions upside down and its effects are still being felt. Americans may wait days or weeks to know who won the election and count tens of millions of mail-in votes.
Biden goes into the final days of the race with more money than Trump. The Democrat raised about $ 130 million between October 1 and 14, about three times the roughly $ 44 million raised by Republican Trump's election campaign. That is based on data filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.
In their debate on Thursday evening, Biden renewed his frequent campaign attacks on Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which killed more than 221,000 people in the U.S. and lost millions of their jobs.
"Anyone responsible for so many deaths shouldn't remain President of the United States of America," said Biden.
Biden said Trump is too slow to warn the public of the severity of the pandemic and too quick to deny its threat and has not developed a recovery plan. Trump defended his handling of the health crisis, claiming the worst was over.
COVID-19 has emerged as the main problem of the race and polls show Americans trust Biden more than Trump to help tackle the health crisis.
Trump pounced on a late-debated comment from Biden that his environmental plan would move the United States away from oil and towards renewable energy sources.
"It will destroy the oil industry," said Trump. "Will you remember Texas? Will you remember Pennsylvania?"
Biden's COVID-19 speech in Delaware on Friday follows his pledges to improve access to testing and listen to advice from health officials and scientists with whom Trump frequently feuds.
Biden has criticized Trump for returning to crowded public rallies that typically have little social distance and few people wear protective masks. Trump, diagnosed with COVID-19 in early October and spent three nights in hospital, mocks Biden for his caution.
FOCUS ON FLORIDA
Florida, Trump's next stop on the campaign, is a must-see for the President and among the battlefield nations likely to make the election.
Both candidates have drawn attention to the state and visited it repeatedly, where a Reuters / Ipsos poll earlier this week found that Biden gained a slight lead after a statistical tie a week earlier.
Trump will begin his Florida visit at the Villages, a sprawling old people's home in central Florida that is a hotbed of political activity and a regular stopover for Republican candidates.
Polls show that Trump, who won voters over 65 by 17 percentage points in 2016, is lagging behind or equal to high-ranking voters in the state this year, a sign of potential problems for the president.
That evening, Trump will hold an airport rally in Pensacola in Florida's heavily Republican northwest panhandle to urge supporters to vote early. Trump will spend the night in Florida before casting his own vote in West Palm Beach on Saturday.
Vice President Mike Pence gave his primary on Friday morning in Indianapolis.
Former President Barack Obama, with whom Biden worked as vice president for eight years, will camp out in Florida on Saturday, Biden's campaign said. Obama made his campaign debut for Biden in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.