WASHINGTON – Joe Biden said Wednesday he’s “not running on the false promises of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch” but would prioritize science, while President Donald Trump used the race’s final days to keep up a whirlwind campaign schedule aimed at focusing on anything but the cornavirus.
The Democratic presidential nominee tried to keep the focus on health care, arguing that a Supreme Court conservative majority stretched to 6-3 by newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett could dismantle the Obama administration’s signature health law and leave millions of Americans with preexisting conditions devoid of insurance coverage.
Biden kept most of his focus on the virus, saying Trump’s handling of the pandemic was an “insult” to its victims, especially as cases rise dramatically around the country.
“Even if I win, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, where he lives. “I’m not running on the false promises of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch. But I do promise this: We will start on day one doing the right things.”
Trump began the day in Las Vegas but was set to hold two rallies in Arizona, including one just across the Colorado River from Nevada that he hoped to use to appeal to voters in that state, hoping to flip it from blue to red.
The president was under pressure to avoid one negative result of a September rally in Nevada that attracted thousands of people: The airport that hosted that event was fined more than $5,500 for violating crowd restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Rather than curb the crowds as virus cases spike across the U.S., Trump is simply shifting his event across the banks of the Colorado River to Bullhead City, Arizona. It’s the latest example of Trump’s efforts to downplay the virus and criticize Democratic leaders in states such as Nevada who have imposed limits on gatherings to combat the worst public health crisis in more than a century.
Trump held an outdoor rally in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday night. After he left, police took some attendees to the hospital, worried about exposure to the cold. The Trump campaign said it sent it a series of shuttlebuses to help the crowd disperse, but Biden said Trump “gets his photo op and then gets out.”
With less than a week until Election Day, Trump is trailing Biden in most national polls. Biden also has an advantage, though narrower, in the key swing states that could decide the election.
Biden voted early in Delaware on Wednesday and also received a virtual briefing from public health experts. One, Dr. David Kessler, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, warned, “We are in the midst of the third wave, and I don’t think anyone can tell you how high this is going to get.”
In the U.S., more than 71,000 people a day are testing positive for the virus on average, up from 51,000 two weeks ago. Cases are rising in all but two states, Hawaii and Delaware, and deaths are climbing in 39, with an average of 805 people dying in the U.S. per day, up from 714 two weeks ago.
Overall, about 227,000 Americans have now been killed by the virus.
Trump views Nevada, a state that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since 2004, as one option for success. Hillary Clinton won it by less than 2.5 percentage points in 2016.
The president is also aiming to keep Arizona in his column. The state hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, but it is competitive this year for both the presidency and the Senate. Democrat Mark Kelly is in a close race against GOP Sen. Martha McSally.
Democrats aren’t ceding either Nevada or Arizona to Trump in the final days of the campaign. Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, hit Nevada in an effort to prevent the state from flipping to Trump.
“A path to the White House runs right through this field,” Harris said in a Las Vegas park Tuesday evening.
She was also traveling to Arizona, meeting with Latina business leaders in Tucson and African American community leaders in Phoenix, as well as holding drive-in, voter mobilization rallies both places Wednesday. On Friday, Harris will visit Fort Worth, Houston and the U.S.-Mexico border town of McAllen in Texas -- a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1976 or even elected one to statewide office since 1994.
Texas has long been so solidly red that top national Democrats visited only to hold fundraisers, then spent their hauls in places thought to be more competitive. The state has remained fiercely conservative, despite a booming Latino population.
“I am really grateful for the attention that they have given Texas because it has been so long since a presidential campaign gave this state a look,” said Beto O’Rourke a former Texas congressman and one of Biden’s former presidential primary rivals.
But O’Rourke declined to predict that Biden would win the state next week.
Democrats point to a larger number of their party members returning absentee ballots in pivotal states like Pennsylvania — results that could be decisive since more people are likely to vote by mail during the pandemic. Trump’s team argues that enough of its supporters will vote on Election Day to overwhelm any Biden advantage.
Around 71.5 million people nationwide have now voted in advance, either by casting early, in-person ballots or voting by mail, according to an Associated Press analysis. That already represents far more than the advance ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s campaign is facing a cash crunch, meanwhile, which has pinched his advertising budget at a time when Biden is using his funding advantage to flood the airwaves with ads in battleground states. That’s forced Trump to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute, despite a worsening pandemic.
In Arizona, Biden is nearly doubling the spending of Trump and the Republican National Committee, which has more cash on hand than the president and has been tapped to help pay for ads in the closing weeks.
In Nevada, the gulf is even more dramatic, with Trump and the RNC’s minimal $500,000 ad buy for the week getting drowned out by $3.3 million in advertising from Biden and his allies, according to data from the ad tracking firm CMAG/Kantar.