Democrats push into Trump country as Biden visits Georgia, Bloomberg funds Texas ads

The 2020 U.S. presidential campaign has been unlike any other as a raging coronavirus pandemic that has so far killed more then 225,000 Americans pushes record early voting

  
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a visit to a voter activation center in Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 26, 2020. REUTERS

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a visit to a voter activation center in Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 26, 2020. REUTERS

Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON - Just a week ahead of the Nov. 3 election, President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden will criss-cross the country on Tuesday in an intense day of campaigning, with Biden making a thrust into traditional Republican territory in a show of optimism.

Leading his Republican rival in national opinion polls, Biden journeys to Georgia, which has not supported a Democrat in a U.S. presidential election since 1992.

Trump will hold rallies in three states key to his re-election hopes: Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

The 2020 presidential campaign has been unlike any other as a raging coronavirus pandemic that has so far killed more then 225,000 Americans pushes record early voting.

In another show of confidence in Biden, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Tuesday he will spend around $15 million on television advertising in Texas and Ohio in the coming days.

Texas has long been seen as a bridge too far for Democrats in a presidential election and not worth the expenditure in the last days of a campaign.

Bloomberg, who lost to Biden in a crowded field for the Democratic nomination, decided to make the ad buys after reviewing polling data from multiple states on Monday, a spokesperson said by email.

In Georgia, opinion polls show the race to be tight, and a win by Biden there would likely be a severe blow to Trump's chances. Biden told reporters on Monday he believes he has a "fighting chance" to take Georgia.

He will hold an afternoon event in Warm Springs, Georgia, before capping the day with an evening rally in Atlanta.

The aggressive move also carries risks for Biden, whose trip to Georgia precludes visits to more traditional battleground states that can swing toward either party's candidate.

EARLY VOTES

More than 66 million votes have been cast so far, approaching half the total 2016 vote, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.

The huge volume of mail ballots could take days or weeks to tally, experts have said. Mail voting is nothing new for the United States - about one in four ballots were cast that way in 2016 - but is surging amid the pandemic. 

Trump, who has repeatedly and without evidence claimed that mailed ballots are likely to be subject to fraud, on Monday said on Twitter: "Must have final total on November 3rd." Twitter flagged the tweet with a disclaimer describing the post's content as "disputed" and potentially misleading. 

Trump’s planned rally in Nebraska, meanwhile, suggests his campaign is preparing for a close finish. The state apportions three of its five electoral votes by majority vote in its three congressional districts, with the Omaha-area district a potential pick-up opportunity for Biden while the rest of the state is expected to go for Trump.

In a scenario where Trump and Biden finish close to a tie in the U.S. Electoral College, that Omaha district with its single vote could make the difference of clinching the 270th elector needed to win. Trump's rally is also likely to draw attendees from neighboring Iowa, another state that is likely to be competitive.

On Tuesday, Trump also stages rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin - two states he won by narrow margins in 2016 but where polls show him now trailing Biden - before stopping overnight in Nevada.

Trump will be able to tout the confirmation of his nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett cleared the Senate on Monday by a 52-48 vote and was sworn in during a night-time outdoor ceremony at the White House, meeting the president's goal of having her on the court by Election Day.

The scene was reminiscent of the Sept. 29 event where Trump introduced Barrett as his nominee, albeit with more attendees wearing masks and increased social distancing this time. The September event preceded an outbreak of the virus that infected Trump and three Senate Republicans.

In a string of early morning posts on Twitter on Tuesday, Trump questioned Biden's potential handling of the top court, and again played down the COVID-19 pandemic despite the record numbers of new U.S. cases in recent days.

Former President Barack Obama will also be back on the trail on Tuesday to boost his former vice president, Biden. Obama will hold a drive-in rally in Orlando, Florida.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; Writing by Alistair Bell Editing by Scott Malone, Lincoln Feast and Howard Goller)

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