'Big day': Trump traverses the country making closing pitch to voters

By Evan Semones and Caitlin Oprysko
·5 min read

President Donald Trump criss-crossed the country Saturday, appearing in four battleground states that are key to his hopes of winning the election 10 days from now.

Trump started the day of whirlwind campaigning by casting his ballot in his adopted state at a library in West Palm Beach, Fla., before making swings through North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, where he drew large crowds of supporters at rallies in each state.

"It was a very secure vote. Much more secure than when you send in a ballot, I can tell you that," Trump, who has repeatedly criticized voting by mail, told reporters as he emerged from the polling site. "Everything was perfect, very strict, right by the rules. When you send in your ballot, it could never be secure like that."

When asked who he voted for, the president replied "a guy named Trump," as he departed for his day of back-to-back-to-back rallies. “Big day. Three of them. In 24 hours you press a button and you’re home,” Trump told reporters of his schedule while aboard Air Force One on Friday night after a rally in Florida.

Trump’s day of campaigning came as the president faces headwinds not only in each state’s polling, but also in terms of rising coronavirus cases. All four states Trump visited Saturday are grappling with spikes in Covid-19 infections as the U.S. reported more than 80,000 infections on Friday, the highest number of daily cases since the onset of the pandemic that has upended the 2020 campaign.

People wait outside a West Palm Beach, Fla., library on Saturday as President Donald Trump casts his ballot for the presidential election.
People wait outside a West Palm Beach, Fla., library on Saturday as President Donald Trump casts his ballot for the presidential election.

Trump, however, maintained the risks of the coronavirus are being exaggerated.

Speaking at a rally in Lumberton, N.C., the president dismissed the grim signs of a new nationwide surge, asserting an unspecified “they” had “prolonged the pandemic" to damage him politically.

“That's all I hear about now. That's all — turn on television, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid. A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don't talk about it. Covid, Covid, Covid,” he said.

Trump quipped to the audience that mentions of the virus would disappear the day after the election, while he shrugged off increasing case numbers, claiming they were the result of more testing — even though rising hospitalizations and fatalities undercut that justification. The daily death toll of the virus has begun to once again top 1,000.

“The cases are up, but listen to this, they all talk about cases. You don't see death,” Trump claimed. “You know why we have cases? Because we test so much, and in many ways it's good, and in many ways it's foolish, okay?”

He also cited his youngest son Barron's diagnosis with coronavirus — along with Trump and first lady Melania Trump earlier this month — to play down the risk that the virus poses to children.

“They said, ‘Sir, madam, I'm sorry to inform you, your son has tested positive, Barron,’” Trump said, reenacting the moment he found out the 14-year-old had contracted Covid-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus. “I said, ‘Oh, no.’ Fifteen seconds later, 'Sir, your son no longer has it.' No, it's true! I said ‘How's Barron doing?’ ‘Oh, he's fine.’’”

Trump repeated that anecdote at his stop in Waukesha, Wisc. Saturday night. "It's going away," he argued, echoing an oft-criticized remark he made early on in the pandemic. "It's rounding the turn."

The president largely stuck to a prepared script at each of his three stops, attacking Democratic rival Joe Biden for being soft on crime and immigration enforcement, accusing him of wanting to wipe out the U.S. oil industry and playing a video suggesting Biden wants to cut Social Security and Medicare.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds on Saturday in Lumberton, N.C.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds on Saturday in Lumberton, N.C.

More than 52 million votes have been cast so far in the election, with Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin seeing record turnout that largely has favored Democrats.

Still, the president maintained Saturday that "the numbers are coming in unbelievably well." Speaking to reporters upon arriving in Columbus, Ohio, Trump told reporters, "I’m not sure the media knows exactly what’s happening yet. But in Florida, we’re doing very well. North Carolina, doing very well. Iowa, doing very well. The governor was just telling me that, in Ohio, we’re doing great."

And he mocked what he claimed were small crowds turning out for Biden campaign events. "I’m watching the crowds that are being drawn by my opponent and his predecessor -- the predecessor. I looked at the crowd that ... President Obama had. Not too big. Not too big," Trump said. "I don't know if that’s an indication of anything, but there’s nobody there."

Biden hit the trail Saturday with three drive-in rallies — including one with rocker Jon Bon Jovi — planned in Pennsylvania as he seeks to move the integral battleground state back into the Democrats' column.

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to make two stops in Florida, and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, fresh off a Friday visit to Atlanta, will travel to Cleveland a week after canceling her original visit when a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.

Former President Barack Obama was also in Florida on Saturday, holding events in Orlando and Miami as he stumped for his former vice president.

A senior administration official said that Trump’s next planned campaign swing will include stops in key Rust Belt battlegrounds Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, before a trip out west to hit Nevada and Arizona.

He’ll then return east to visit Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin again.