FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – Backed into a corner and facing economic strains, President Donald Trump fought to defend his recurring re-election offer Friday, welcoming seniors and African Americans to the Sunbelt, including a state that Republicans have not lost in nearly three decades . With election day looming, Democrat Joe Biden pushed to keep voters focused on health care in the Midwest.
Trump fought in Florida and Georgia, the neighboring states that he carried four years ago and must win again to extend his presidency. His decision to set aside Friday night̵
No Republican presidential candidate has lost Georgia since George HW Bush in 1992. And earlier this week, Trump couped voters in Iowa, a state he held by nearly 10 points four years ago.
At his first of two stops Friday in Florida, the president spoke directly to seniors who have become increasingly acidic about his handling of the pandemic.
“I’m moving heaven and earth to protect our seniors from the China virus,” Trump said, using his usual guilt-shifting term to describe coronavirus. He also offered an optimistic assessment of the pandemic, even as a wave of new infections spread across America.
“We are prevalent,” the president said, promising to deliver the first doses of a vaccine to seniors when it is ready.
Despite the harsh talk, Trump’s actions on the ground in Florida underscored the conflicting messages his administration has sent throughout the pandemic. All of the president’s security personnel and support staff wore face masks when Air Force One touched, but Trump and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis were just face to face.
Meanwhile, the president’s campaign released new figures late on Thursday, suggesting he is likely to be the first incumbent president to face an economic disadvantage in the modern era.
The Trump campaign, along with the Republican National Committee and affiliated groups, raised $ 247.8 million in September, well below the $ 383 million raised by Biden and the Democratic National Committee. To open October, the Trump effort officially had $ 251.4 million in the bank, according to a campaign spokesman, compared to $ 432 million for Biden.
The president fought for momentum on the campaign track a day after he and Biden squared in dueling TV townhouses that showed marked differences in temperament, views on racial justice and approach to the pandemic.
On NBC, Trump was defensive about his administration’s handling of coronavirus, which has cost more than 217,000 lives in the US and evasive when pressured to take a required COVID-19 test before his first debate with Biden. Angry and belligerent, Trump refused to condemn the QAnon conspiracy group – and did so only with attempts at white supremacy.
The Republican president also appeared to recognize revelations from a recent New York Times report that he was in debt, leaving the possibility that some of it was due to a foreign bank. But he insisted he owed no money to Russia or any “creepy people” and suggested that $ 400 million in debt was a “very, very small percentage” compared to his total assets.
In a speech in Florida on Friday, Trump sarcastically called the NBC event “a delightfully enjoyable evening” and tapped moderator Savannah Guthrie for “being completely crazy.”
On ABC, Biden suggested he would clarify his position on expanding the Supreme Court if Trump’s candidate for the bench sits before election day. He eagerly condemned the White House’s handling of the virus, declaring that the Trump administration was to blame for closing a pandemic response office set up by the Obama administration where he served.
The former vice president planned to continue to challenge Trump’s record of the pandemic and his many years of unfulfilled promises to create a stronger and more affordable health system on the Michigan battlefield. Biden was scheduled to perform twice in the Detroit area.
The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the current health care law and its protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump promises a replacement that will protect the people’s existing conditions, but has not yet released a comprehensive plan.
Prior to Biden’s appearance in Michigan, his campaign confirmed that both Biden and his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, had tested negative for coronavirus.
While he was certainly defensive on the ground in key states, Trump on Friday released a sharp new ad that attacked Biden’s record of race. Specifically, the ad uses Biden’s support for a criminal law law that disproportionately punished colored people.
“He insulted us, imprisoned us, we must not elect him president,” the narrator declares.
It is unclear whether the attack ad will break through the saturated air waves. According to advertising tracking company Kantar / CMAG, Biden and his ally Trump and his allies switch to paid advertising more than 2 to 1 through election day.
People reported from New York. Barrow reported from Detroit.