President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden made a last-ditch push for votes in battleground states on Monday as their campaigns prepared for post-election disputes that could prolong a divisive presidential election.
Biden campaigned in Pennsylvania and Ohio, as Trump toured the voting battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
National polls suggest a firm lead for Biden in Tuesday’s election. But his lead is narrower in the handful of states that could decide the result.
In North Carolina, Trump told supporters that “next year will be the greatest economic year in the history of our country”.
He touted numbers that he says “nobody even thought possible”.
First Lady Melania Trump was in the state to support her husband, and accused Democrats of inciting violence in a speech to supporters.
“I think we all agree we need my husband as our Commander in Chief for four more years,” she said.
“In the face of violent looting, our opponents have called for the defunding of our hard working police and ICE officers. Our children are watching and learning about politics in our country. They deserve a better display of responsibility and respect. While they like to blame my husband for his behavior, the media’s promotion of divisive language and attacks has led to open disdain and hostility towards voters like you and me.”
After North Carolina, Trump headed to Scranton, Pennsylvania, the city where his opponent lived until he was 10. At a rally there he reminded his supporters that he won the state in 2016 despite polls suggesting he would lose.
The two men broke sharply on the voting process itself while campaigning in the most fiercely contested battleground, Pennsylvania. The president threatened legal action to stop counting beyond Election Day. If Pennsylvania ballot counting takes several days, as is allowed, Trump charged that “cheating can happen like you have never seen.”
Going further, Trump even tweeted about election-related “violence in the streets,” though none has occurred. The social media platform flagged his message, adding a disclaimer to the tweet that its content “might be misleading.”
Asked about it, Biden said “I’m not going to respond to anything he has to say. I’m hoping for a straightforward, peaceful election with a lot of people showing up.”
In Pennsylvania, Biden was joined by singer Lady Gaga at a rally in Pittsburgh. Musician John Legend addressed voters with vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
Biden urged Black voters in Pittsburgh to turn out to help him win the all-important state.
“Tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that has fanned the flames of hate across this nation, pouring gasoline on every racial incident in the country, millions of Americans have already voted over almost 100 million now.”
He spoke about his plan to promote Black economic mobility and the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on the community.
Biden said that “we’re done with the chaos, we’re done with the racism, we’re done with the tweets, the anger the hate the failure, the irresponsibility.”
Black and Latino voters are key to his hopes of a win in Pennsylvania and beyond, and he and running mate Kamala Harris have held numerous events focused on the minority community.
At a last-minute campaign stop in Ohio, Biden repeated the core message of his campaign, telling voters that the race was about the soul of America. He said it was time for Trump to “pack his bags”, saying “we’re done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility”.
Former President Barack Obama campaigned in Michigan for Biden on Monday. He criticised Trump for casting doubt on the results of Tuesday’s election, likening him to strongmen elsewhere in the world.
“That’s something a two-bit dictator does,” Obama said. “If you believe in democracy, you want every vote counted.”
Obama said if a Democrat was acting like Trump, “I couldn’t support him.”
“He’s been coddling dictators for the last four years. And now apparently says he might declare victory before all the votes are counted tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow, we can choose hope over fear and unity over division. And if we do Florida, if we vote like our lives depend on it, we will elect Joe Biden as president, we will elect Kamala Harris as vice president,” Obama said.
The former president also slammed Trump for suggesting that he might fire Dr. Anthony Fauci from his job as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
President Trump held his last last rally of the campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before midnight.
More than 98 million people have already cast their ballots in early voting, putting the country on course for its highest turnout in a century.