US President Donald Trump and former US vice president Joe Biden were to return to the campaign trail yesterday with visits to three battleground states, a day after the contenders for next month’s US presidential election clashed from afar in separate televised town hall meetings.
The split-screen events replaced a presidential debate that was canceled in the wake of Trump’s diagnosis with COVID-19.
Moderator Samantha Guthrie of NBC asked Trump about the pandemic, the QAnon movement, and the possibility of fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
More than 18 million Americans have already cast ballots, far more than at a similar juncture in 2016, according to a tracker at the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.
Louisiana began early voting yesterday, following record turnout in competitive states Georgia, Texas and North Carolina this week.
Trump is to travel to Florida and Georgia, two states that are seen as crucial to his chances of victory, while Biden planned to visit two cities in Michigan, another battleground state.
Biden focused his attacks on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed 216,000 Americans and hammered the economy.
The second presidential debate had been scheduled for Thursday, but Trump pulled out of the event after organizers said it would be virtual to lessen the risk of infection.
During his town hall on NBC in front of voters in Miami, Trump said of QAnon, a movement whose adherents believe that Democrats are part of a global pedophilia ring: “I do know they are against pedophilia, they fight it very hard.”
However, he said knew little else about the movement when pressed by Guthrie.
Trump questioned whether masks are effective at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In Philadelphia, Biden outlined plans to combat the pandemic and revive the economy by prioritizing testing, funding local and state governments, and hiking taxes dramatically on corporations and wealthy people.
He again deferred when asked whether he supports adding justices to the US Supreme Court, an idea known as “court packing.”
“It depends on how this turns out,” he said of the ongoing confirmation hearings for Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
The pandemic dominated the proceedings.
Trump said that the country has “rounded the corner.”
Biden’s campaign said that three people who recently traveled with him or his running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, had tested positive.
Neither candidate had close contact with the infected people, the campaign said.
However, Harris canceled her in-person events through Sunday as a precaution.
The third presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 22.
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