President Donald Trump undertook a whirlwind tour of five battleground states on Sunday amid speculation that he planned to declare victory prematurely on Tuesday night even before all the votes had been counted, especially the millions of mail-in ballots that will typically take time.
Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, focused on just one battleground state on his penultimate day of campaigning: Pennsylvania, where he, his wife Jill Biden and vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris and her husband Dug Emhoff will be carpet-covering on Monday.
“My message to you is simple: Pennsylvania is critical in this election,” Biden said at a drive-in rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Last time, Donald Trump won by just 44,000 votes. Every single vote will matter. The power to change this country is in your hands. I don’t care how hard Donald Trump tries. There is nothing — NOTHING — that is going to stop the people of this nation from voting.”
President Trump and Republicans have through rhetoric, local administrative choices and lawsuits tried to curtail voting, challenging and obstructing widely accepted electoral practices.
President Trump sought to push back on an Axios news article that he planned to declare victory on Tuesday night if he was “ahead”, even though the outcome would depend on the counting of large numbers of mail-in ballots, nearly 60 million already returned, with 31 million more expected.
“That was a false report,” he told reporters between rallies. “We’ll look at what happened. I think it’s a terrible thing when ballots can be collected after an election. I think it’s a terrible thing when people or states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over because it can only lead to one thing, and that’s very bad.”
Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign aide, expressed similar reservations about counting continuing well past election night saying in an interview to ABC News that Trump will be “ahead” in electoral college votes on Tuesday night and then, he suggested wrongly, the Democrats will “try to steal it back after the election”.
The Trump campaign is pushing a misleading narrative that the outcome of the elections must be known and declared on election night. That has happened in past elections, but it’s a practice driven completely by the situation on the ground, not by law. His 2016 election was declared past 3 am the next day and the winner of the 2000 election was declared more than a month after.
Tuesday night is expected to be messy, by all accounts, with the possibility of violence forecast.
Tensions and tempers are already rising. A group of Trump supporters in cars — called the “Trump Train” group — surrounded a Biden campaign bus and forced it slow down in the middle of a highway in Texas, a solidly Republican state that Democrats hoping to flip this election. FBI is investigating the incident.
Trump supporters in cars blocked traffic on two major highways in the New York-New Jersey area on Sunday. Business establishments in Washington DC and other have begun boarding up their windows in anticipation of violence on election night and after with memories still fresh of looting and violence past summer.
With two days left for close of polling, Trump and Biden, along with their surrogates are making their closing arguments in battleground states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Minnesota, Florida, Arizona and Nevada; democrats are also taking a shot at Texas and Georgia.
Trump’s final arguments are chiefly a defence of his handling of the Covid-19 epidemic and a reminder of the booming economy before the virus hit the country and the promise of more of that if elected. At a rally on Sunday night, he attacked Anthony Fauci, the epidemiologist who has contested Trump’s claims, and suggested he might fire him after election.