PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) – President Donald Trump is set to cast his own ballot in his adopted home state of Florida Saturday before rallying supporters in three other critical battleground states. Democrat Joe Biden is throwing his attention – with a little help from rock legend Jon Bon Jovi – on hotly contested pockets of Pennsylvania that could prove key to deciding the outcome of the race there.
With just 10 days to go, Trump and Biden are pleading with their supporters to help them turn out support, particularly in several key states.
“To continue our movement. I am going to rely on you. Get out and vote,” Trump told supporters in Florida on Friday. “Vote early. Bring your friends, your family, your neighbors, your co-workers. Even grab your boss and say: ‘Come on, boss. You got to vote.’”
Trump is set to hold big rallies in Lumberton, North Carolina, Circleville, Ohio, and Waukesha, Wisconsin, and promises to go full throttle over the final 10 days of the campaign with a series of big rallies even as the number of new daily coronavirus cases continues to climb. The U.S. recorded 71,671 new cases Thursday, with several states setting records across the Midwest and West.
Biden has focused much of his attention on making the case to voters that Trump doesn’t deserve a second term because of his handling of the pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans and upended the economy.
Before his Saturday rallies, Trump, who spent the night at his Mar-a-Lago resort after campaigning Friday in Florida, is expected vote early in nearby West Palm Beach. Trump last year switched his official residence to his private club from New York, complaining his home state’s politicians had treated him badly.
Biden, meanwhile, will hold a pair of drive-in events in Bucks County, part of suburban Philadelphia that 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won by a slim margin, and Luzerne County, a blue-collar area that twice voted for Barack Obama but went overwhelmingly for Trump four years ago. Biden’s campaign said the former vice president will be joined by Bon Jovi, a native of neighboring New Jersey, for the Luzerne event.
More than 52 million votes have already been cast, with an additional 100 million or so expected before a winner is declared.
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Trump onto the defensive for much of the fall, but for the moment it is Biden’s team that has been forced to explain itself. In the final minutes of Thursday night’s debate, the former vice president said he supports a “transition” away from oil in the U.S. in favor of renewable energy. The campaign released a statement hours later declaring that he would phase out taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel companies, not the industry altogether.
But Trump, campaigning in Florida, repeatedly seized on the issue.
“That could be one of the biggest mistakes made in presidential debate history,” he gloated at a rally at The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in central Florida, where thousands of people gathered outdoors on a polo field. Most did not wear masks.
Later, in Pensacola, Trump recounted the moment with glee.
“It looked like he made it, it looked like it was going to be OK. He got off the stage, going back to his basement, and then they hit him with the energy question. They hit him with a thing called oil,” he told a sprawling crowd in Florida’s Panhandle that appeared to be one of the largest of his campaign to date.
While Florida is still logging thousands of new COVID-19 cases daily, audience members stood and sat shoulder-to-shoulder and Make America Great Again hats far outnumbered face coverings. In-person voting in the state began Monday.
As part of his damage control, Biden dispatched running mate Kamala Harris to help clarify his position as she campaigned in swing state Georgia.
“Let’s be really clear about this: Joe Biden is not going to ban fracking,” Harris said, referring to a technique that uses pressurized liquid to extract oil or natural gas. “He is going to deal with the oil subsidies. You know, the president likes to take everything out of context. But let’s be clear, what Joe was talking about was banning subsidies, but he will not ban fracking in America.”
As he campaigned in The Villages, Trump fired an insult at Harris that pointed to her gender, quickly stirring criticism.
“Kamala will not be your first female president,” Trump declared. “Look, we’re not going to be a socialist nation. We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially any female socialist president.”
As for Biden and oil, while ending the nation’s reliance on fossil fuel is popular among many liberals, the idea could hurt him among working-class voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas who depend on the industry, and fracking in particular, to make a living.
Trump’s allies immediately began running new attack ads seizing on the Democrats’ inconsistent answers on energy. And Trump played a video at his Pensacola rally that included past comments from Biden and Harris about fracking, which Harris supported banning during her primary campaign.
As part of his plan to fight climate change, Biden has said he would ban new gas and oil permits – including fracking – on federal lands only. The vast majority of oil and gas does not come from federal lands.
Weissert reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writers Kevin Freking, Zeke Miller and Aamer Madhani in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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