PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — It’s a battleground blitz with just two days to go until Election Day. President Donald Trump campaigned in five states Sunday, while Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden focused on Pennsylvania, the battleground state that could decide it all.
Biden was spending the final days of the presidential campaign appealing to Black supporters to vote in-person during a pandemic that has disproportionately affected their communities, betting that a strong turnout will boost his chances in states that could decide the election.
The former vice president was in Philadelphia on Sunday, the largest city in what is emerging as the most hotly contested battleground in the closing 48 hours of the campaign. He participated in a “souls to the polls” event at the Sharon Baptist Church in the city’s Wynnefield Heights neighborhood that is part of a nationwide effort to organize Black churchgoers to vote.
Tune in as I join members of Philadelphia's faith community for a Souls to the Polls event. https://t.co/9i6yGiETvt
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 1, 2020
“Every single day we’re seeing race-based disparities in every aspect of this virus,” Biden said at the drive-in event, shouting to be heard over the blaring car horns.
He declared that Trump’s handling of COVID-19 was “almost criminal” and that the pandemic was a “mass casualty event in the Black community.”
“There’s too much on the line to sit it out. We only have two more days. Two more days we can put an end to this presidency that as has from the very beginning sought to divide us, to tear us apart,” Biden said. “Folks, in two days we can put an end to a presidency that has failed to protect this nation. In two days, we can put an end to a presidency that fans the flames of hate, poured gasoline on every opportunity he had all across this nation.”
Biden then held a drive-in campaign rally at FDR Park in South Philadelphia on Sunday night as part of a big last-minute push to get out the vote in Philadelphia.
— Matt Petrillo (@MattPetrillo) November 1, 2020
“The world’s kind of been laughing at us for the past four years, and I don’t like that,” Chris Oberstein, a Biden supporter, said. “I want to be proud to be an American again.”
After the drive-in rally, Biden hosted what his campaign calls a “Soul of the Nation” gospel concert series that includes remarks from several clergy members.
Meanwhile, Trump spoke in Michigan on Sunday as well as Iowa.
Trump aimed to blunt the effort by arguing that Biden and other Democrats have taken the support of Black voters for granted.
“Show Joe Biden and the Democrat Party what you think of their decades of betrayal and abuse,” Trump told supporters on Sunday at a rally north of Detroit.
With more than 91 million votes already cast, Trump and Biden are out of time to reshape the race. Instead, they’re focusing on their base and making sure that any potential supporters have either already voted or plan to do so in person on Tuesday.
“Joe Biden will shut down your economy, raise taxes, a $400 trillion tax increase. He’s the only politician that I’ve ever seen that said ‘we will raise your taxes,’” Trump said.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, spoke in Lancaster at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
For Biden, that means paying close attention to Black voters who are a critical part of the coalition he needs to build to win. His campaign’s final burst of travel was tailored to boost that support: After Philadelphia, he was to be in Cleveland and Pittsburgh on Monday. And after stops with Biden in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, on Saturday, former President Barack Obama heads to Georgia on Monday.
But one popular Democrat, former first lady Michelle Obama, had not scheduled any in-person campaign events during the general election. She did, however, speak at the Democrats’ convention and in a video for social media.
When the pandemic reached America, Democrats spent months pushing their supporters to vote by mail. But their energy has shifted to urge Black supporters who have long preferred to vote in person or distrust voting by mail to get out on Tuesday. Biden’s campaign has tried to reverse the drop in Black turnout from 2012 to 2016 — with decreases in cities such as Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Philadelphia — that contributed to Trump’s upset against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A Biden path toward victory must include Black majority cities, including Philadelphia and Detroit, which will be crucial in determining the outcome in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Those are states where both candidates have spent a significant amount of time in the final days of the 2020 election.
“The historical but also cultural reality for our community is that Election Day represents a collective political act and it’s a continuation of our struggle for full citizenship in this country,” said Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPAC. “Black voters are showing up in ways that they did not in 2016 and we can take heart in that.”
In Detroit, officials are projecting a 50% voter turnout, which would be higher than 2016, yet lower than 2008 and 2016 when Obama’s candidacy drew record voter participation. Grassroots organizers in the Philadelphia area have spent months engaging potential voters, many of whom they expect will be casting ballots for the first time on Election Day.
“Most Black voters in Philly have been skeptical of mail-in voting,” said Joe Hill, a veteran Democratic operative-turned-lobbyist from the city. “A lot of us have gotten our ballots already,” Hill said, but added, “Election Day has always been everything in Philadelphia.”
Pennsylvania will also be on the national stage for Election Day Eve. Lady Gaga will be performing in Pittsburgh on Monday night with Biden. At the same time, vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris is expected to join singer John Legend in Philly for a drive-in campaign event to increase voter turnout.
“More and more states are either heavily Democrat or heavily Republican, but Pennsylvania has been a somewhat of swing state or battleground state for some time now,” Committee of Seventy policy director Patrick Christmas said.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo contributed to this report.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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