WILMINGTON, Del./DORAL, Fla. (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden planned to hit the campaign trail again on Friday with visits to three battleground states, after displaying their sharply contrasting styles in dueling televised town halls.
Trump will travel to Florida and Georgia, two states he could need on the path to victory, while Biden will visit two cities in Michigan, another battleground state.
Trump lags in opinion polls and latest figures from his campaign show he is also behind in fundraising in the final weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee raised some $247.8 million in September, his campaign manager said on Twitter, well behind the $383 million haul of Biden and the Democratic Party.
As the candidates return to the trail, a record 21.2 million Americans already have voted, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. About 136.6 million people in total voted in the 2016 election.
Louisiana launched early voting on Friday, following record turnout this week in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, competitive states that could decide the election outcome.
Thursday night's split-screen events replaced a presidential debate that was canceled after Trump's bout with coronavirus.
Trump, who appeared on NBC with moderator Savannah Guthrie, denounced white supremacists two weeks after failing to do so forcefully at the first presidential debate. But he would not do the same about QAnon, a fringe movement whose adherents believe Democrats are part of a global pedophilia ring.
"I do know they are against pedophilia, they fight it very hard," Trump said, before saying he knew nothing about the conspiracy theory when pressed by the moderator.
Trump questioned whether masks were effective at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, contradicting the consensus of public health experts, including some in his administration. He also reiterated his unsubstantiated assertion that the 2020 election was rife with fraud.
In Philadelphia on the ABC network, Biden focused his attacks on Trump's handling of the pandemic, which has killed 216,000 people in the United States and hammered the economy. He outlined his plans to battle the pandemic and revive the economy by prioritizing testing, funding local and state governments and dramatically increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
He promised to announce before the election his position on adding justices to the Supreme Court, which some Democrats favor in response to Republicans' push for quick confirmation of Trump's latest nominee to the court, Amy Coney Barrett.
Looming over the last seven months of the campaign, the coronavirus dominated both televised events. Trump said again that the country has "rounded the corner," despite surges in cases in many states.
Biden's campaign said three people who in recent days had traveled with him or his running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, had tested positive. Neither candidate had close contact with the infected individuals, the campaign said, but Harris canceled her in-person events through Sunday as a precaution.
(Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone, Frances Kerry and Howard Goller)
© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020
Increased mail-in voting, COVID-19, and a variety of state-by-state election formats contribute to a unique 2020 election. As a result, it is likely that many close House and Senate races, as well as the presidency, will not be called on Nov. 3.
States may also shift in outcome in the days or weeks following the election — an expected change experts have warned about as results are returned. While human error happens, both mail-in and in-person voting have extremely low rates of fraud.
The state of Utah has used vote-by-mail since 2012. It has safeguards in place to make sure every ballot it receives is legitimate.