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US Prez elections 2020: Uncertainty dominates campaign's final stretch

Within President Donald Trump's campaign, some privately feared the worst heading into the national conventions


President Donald Trump

AP New York
Within President Donald Trump's campaign, some privately feared the worst heading into the national conventions.
They worried a strong showing by Democrat Joe Biden, combined with an underwhelming performance by Trump, would lock in the certainty of a blowout loss that would essentially end the election by September.
But as the candidates move beyond trouble-free conventions and into the final phase of the 2020 election season, both sides acknowledge the contest is tightening. And after months of running an almost entirely virtual campaign because of the pandemic, Biden has decided to launch a new phase of in-person events to help blunt any Trump gains.
This campaign has always known that it's going to be a close race, it's going to be a tough race, Biden's senior adviser Anita Dunn said, noting that no Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 has earned more than 52.9% of the vote.
She added: It's a polarised nation and we expect this kind of tightening.
That leaves Democrats and Republicans preparing for a 64-day sprint to the finish that is widely expected to be one of the most turbulent and chaotic periods in modern American history.
Each side cast the other as an existential threat to America's future as they offered voters starkly different versions of reality over the last two weeks of carefully scripted conventions.
Democrats attacked Trump as an incompetent racist with autocratic tendencies who is failing to protect the nation from the pandemic as he actively undermines democracy.
Republicans largely ignored the pandemic while attacking Biden as a senile lifetime politician controlled by his party's far-left wing and incapable of protecting suburban voters from mobs of protesters.
America doesn't feel like one country with all the chaos and division, former Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg said in an interview.
Rarely have such dire variables loomed over the closing weeks of an election. A pandemic that has already killed 180,000 Americans shows little sign of slowing. A scuffling economy has pushed 28 million onto the unemployment rolls with tens of thousands of businesses feared permanently closed. Continued police violence against unarmed Black people has sparked sweeping civil rights protests and new incidents of protest-related violence on the streets.
There are the natural disasters: A hurricane pummeled the Gulf Coast last week, massive forest fires are burning California, and powerful derecho winds slammed Iowa's farming industry.
And what worries government watchdogs the most: Trump is openly undermining the integrity of the election by raising unfounded concerns about voting by mail to avoid long waits at polling places during the pandemic.
Among the many crises shaping the fall campaign, racial tensions have emerged as a critical factor that could decide Trump's fate.
Trump's campaign believes it is benefiting from sometimes violent protests in Wisconsin that followed a white police officer shooting Jacob Black, a Black Man, seven times, leaving him paralysed. The president has repeatedly cast protesters as angry mobs that threaten America's suburbs, an argument with racist undertones aimed at strengthening Trump's diminished standing with older voters and suburban women.
As part of his law and order message, Trump has consistently sided with police over their African American victims. He plans to visit the site of the latest violent clash, Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King III likened Trump's rhetoric on race and his party's efforts to make it more difficult to vote this fall to the efforts of Republican leaders like Richard Nixon prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It's unclear if 2020 America will have as much tolerance for the message that resonated a half century ago.
Meanwhile, the candidates are unleashing dramatically different campaigns upon voters as they navigate the pandemic.
After almost completely avoiding campaign travel since early March, Biden will resume in-person campaigning on Monday in Pennsylvania. Biden has cited plans to campaign in at least four states: Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, although the specific schedule remains a work in progress.
He is expected to rely on smaller events in which attendees would adhere to strict social distancing measures and wear masks.
You saw all those people at the White House the other night without masks, Dunn said. You're not going to see that at a Joe Biden event.
Biden's team is not currently planning to resume in-person canvassing efforts, usually the lifeblood of campaigns, in which armies of paid staff and volunteers talk face-to-face with prospective supporters at their doorsteps. The campaign instead has more than 2,000 paid staff and many more volunteers making phone calls and messaging voters.
On the other side, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said the GOP has been actively courting voters in person for weeks and would continue to do so, despite the pandemic's mounting death toll.
Trump plans to begin a breakneck campaign schedule featuring larger events in the coming days and weeks. He's grown fond of rallies inside airport hangars, which are arguably safer from a health perspective given they are partially open-air; they also allow the president to energise his crowds by pulling up in Air Force One.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Aug 31 2020 | 10:52 AM IST

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