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Trump, Biden offer starkly different closing arguments on eve of election

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE and Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE laid out sharply diverging closing messages on the eve of Election Day in a last ditch effort to tilt the race in their favor. 

Trump sought to cater to his base with attacks on media figures and his political opponents. He portrayed Biden as mentally incapable of handling the presidency and claimed the former vice president would implement a “prison state” to control the coronavirus pandemic if elected. 

Biden, meanwhile, tried to appeal to a broader swath of Americans as he pledged to unite the country. The Democratic nominee focused on the pandemic, assailing Trump’s response to it and promising to listen to the advice of scientists. Biden characterized Trump as divisive, dangerous and unfit for the Oval Office. 

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Both candidates are staging appearances in battleground states Monday, less than 24 hours before Election Day and after a record 90 million Americans already cast ballots in the election. 

Their events stood in stark contrast but reflected the respective campaigns the two men have waged.

Trump rallied thousands of supporters despite the coronavirus pandemic, while Biden opted for drive-in events to allow for distancing. Trump spoke for hours before crowds of supporters, often straying from prepared remarks, while Biden delivered more scripted and pointed speeches focused on the virus and his plans for the economy. 

Trump is staging five rallies in four states — North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — on Monday while Biden is focused on Ohio and Pennsylvania. Both candidates’ schedules overlapped in the Keystone State, a nod to the degree of importance Pennsylvania and its 20 Electoral College votes are playing in this election.

Polls show Biden with a steadier lead over Trump than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFederal workers stuck it out with Trump — now, we're ready to get back to work Biden soars as leader of the free world Intercept DC bureau chief says Biden picks are 'same people' from Obama years MORE had in 2016. But Democrats, scarred by the defeat of four years ago, remain nervous, and Trump allies believe he is closing strong in key states. Recent polling shows the two candidates neck and neck in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

Biden has retained wider margins in Michigan and Wisconsin, and polling in Pennsylvania shows the Democrat ahead by an average of 3 percentage points.

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In the final days of his reelection campaign, Trump’s focus seems to be solely on energizing his base of supporters in hopes of propelling a “red wave” of turnout in his favor on Election Day to offset large Democratic advantages in early voting.

“This does not look like a second place finish,” Trump told a raucous crowd in Scranton, Pa., Biden’s childhood hometown.

The president, trailing in the polls but with a narrow path to 270 electoral votes, is hoping for a repeat of 2016’s surprise victory over Clinton. His message in the final days of the 2020 campaign in many ways mirrored his rhetoric and strategy of four years ago, right down to his final stop before Election Day.

Trump is holding his final rally of the day in Grand Rapids, Mich., the same city where he delivered a final speech on the eve of Election Day in 2016. Supporters in Fayetteville, N.C., chanted “lock her up” after Trump called Clinton a “criminal.” The president at a Sunday rally read “The Snake,” a song from the 1960s that he has co-opted to warn of the purported dangers of immigrants. And after almost four years in office he has continued portraying himself as a political outsider compared to Biden, who spent decades in the Senate.

Trump has repeatedly spurned calls from some GOP strategists and advisers to appeal to moderate voters by dialing back his incendiary tweets and rhetoric and pivoting to a more empathetic message about the coronavirus pandemic.

His remarks throughout the day on Monday featured a scattered argument for why he has earned a second term. He made broad promises to restore the economy to previous heights and “save the American dream.”

But what Trump mostly offered were grievances about his critics and exaggerated or misleading attacks on his opponents.

Trump riffed about his dislike for Fox News’s pollsters; he called Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) a “watermelon head”; he dismissed the Russia investigation as a “fake scam”; he complained that news outlets and social media platforms had not given adequate attention to unproven allegations of corruption against Biden; he mocked a journalist who was shot by a rubber bullet while covering a protest; and he rebuked the Supreme Court for allowing Pennsylvania to count mail ballots received by Nov. 6.

The president’s main case against Biden has been built around an extraordinarily bleak prediction of what the country would look like under a Democratic president. Trump warned supporters at multiple stops that Biden would “shred your Second Amendment, confiscate your guns and indoctrinate our children with anti-American lies.”

“The Biden lockdown will mean no school, no graduations, no weddings, no thanksgiving, no Easter, no Christmas, no Fourth of July, and no future for America’s youth,” Trump said, claiming Biden would perpetually shutter the country to control the coronavirus, something the Democratic nominee has not said he would do.

Biden, as he has throughout his campaign, used his final remarks to voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania to home in on the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed over 220,000 people in America and ravaged the economy. He accused Trump of failing to protect America and waving the “white flag” on the pandemic, while pledging to get the virus under control and listen to scientists if he is elected. 

Biden seized on comments made by Trump on Sunday suggesting he may fire Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Overnight Health Care: Biden team to begin getting COVID briefings | Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on Biden's COVID task force | Major glove factories close after thousands test positive for COVID-19 Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on a Biden coronavirus task force MORE, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, following the election.  

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“Last night, Trump said he was going to fire Dr. Fauci. Isn’t that wonderful,” Biden said during a drive-in car rally in Cleveland.  “I’ve got a better idea. Elect me, and I’m going to hire Dr. Fauci and we’re going to fire Donald Trump.”

Biden accused Trump of dividing America, and he played to voters in the middle as he promised to govern as an “American president.” 

At a later appearance in Pittsburg focused on the Black community, he promised to address the coronavirus’s disproportionate impact on minority communities, before ripping Trump’s frequent claim that he has done more for African Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln. 

“The truth is Donald Trump has done more to harm Black America than any president in modern history,” Biden said, citing Trump’s past encouragement of an unfounded theory that President Obama was born in Kenya.

Trump seemed to be watching Biden’s remarks in Ohio live as he traveled from his North Carolina rally to an event in Pennsylvania, tweeting out commentary as the Democrat spoke.

The final day of campaigning is expected to give way to a tense and uncertain Election Day.

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There is speculation Trump and his campaign may rush to declare victory before all the votes are counted if initial returns show him leading, and the president has signaled his team is prepared to mount legal challenges in swing states such as Pennsylvania to prevent ballots from being counted if they are received after Election Day.

Trump will take in the results from the White House while Biden watches from his home state of Delaware.

—Updated at 6:37 p.m.