In Dash to Finish, Biden and Trump Set Up Showdown in Pennsylvania


PHILADELPHIA — As the national early vote climbs past a staggering 93 million and challenges to the electoral process intensify across states, President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. are barreling into Pennsylvania and turning it into the top battleground in Tuesday’s election, with Democrats flooding in with door-knockers and Republicans trying to parlay Mr. Trump’s rallies into big turnout once again.

​Both campaigns see Pennsylvania as increasingly crucial to victory: Mr. Trump now appears more competitive here than in Michigan and Wisconsin, two other key northern states he hopes to win, and Mr. Biden’s clearest electoral path to the White House runs through the state. Pennsylvania has more Electoral College votes, 20, than any other traditional battleground except Florida, and Mr. Trump won the state by less than one percentage point in 2016.

Mr. Trump devoted Saturday to four rallies across the state, and he and Mr. Biden planned campaign events for the final 48 hours of the race as well, with a wave of prominent Democrats and celebrities slated to arrive. On Monday the president was set to make an appeal to white, working-class voters in Scranton, where Mr. Biden was born, while the Democratic nominee was aiming to solidify a broad coalition of white suburbanites and voters of color on a two-day swing through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere in western Pennsylvania.

Mr. Biden is ahead with a modest margin in recent polls, and is trying to cut into the president’s turnout in rural counties. But Mr. Trump’s rallies have energized many Republican voters, and his team is already preparing legal challenges over the vote if it ends up being close.

In Pennsylvania in particular, the possibility of extended court battles and confusion hangs over the race, with the state Republican Party hoping the Supreme Court will reconsider its decision last week to allow the state to continue receiving absentee ballots for three days after Election Day.

“Every day is a new reminder of how high the stakes are, how far the other side will go to try to suppress the turnout,” Mr. Biden said as he campaigned here Sunday. “Especially here in Philadelphia. President Trump is terrified of what will happen in Pennsylvania.”

Court battles have already rearranged the voting process across an array of states and continued to do so on Sunday. The Texas Supreme Court denied an effort by Republicans to throw out more than 120,000 votes that had been cast at drive-through locations in Harris County, an increasingly Democratic area anchored in Houston. Republicans are now hoping for a favorable ruling at the federal level, where a judge has called an election-eve hearing for Monday.

Some Trump supporters also turned disruptive on Sunday: Vehicles bearing Trump flags halted traffic on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey; local officials said the motorcade backed up traffic for several miles. In Georgia, a rally for Democrats that had been scheduled was canceled, with organizers citing worries over what they feared was a “large militia presence” drawn by Mr. Trump’s own event nearby.

Throughout his final sprint of rallies, Mr. Trump has moved to baselessly sow doubt about the integrity of the electoral process. At an appearance in Dubuque, Iowa, on Sunday, Mr. Trump claimed, inaccurately, that the result of the election was always determined on Election Day. “We should know the result of the election on Nov. 3,” he said. “The evening of Nov. 3. That’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it should be. What’s going on in this country?”

Mr. Biden countered with his own warning later Sunday, saying, “The president is not going to steal this election.”

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Mr. Trump’s lagging position in the race was evident in his grueling travel schedule that had him shoring up votes in five states he won four years ago — Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

His final rally of the day was scheduled for 11 p.m., and risked violating a midnight curfew in Miami-Dade County.

Mr. Biden, by contrast, set his sights squarely on Pennsylvania on Sunday, an approach he will repeat again Monday, along with a foray into Ohio, a state Mr. Trump won handily in 2016 but that polls show could be more competitive now.

Democrats are well aware of how devoted Mr. Trump’s core base remains. In Macomb County in Michigan, where the president held his first rally Sunday, Irwin Patterson was selling Trump merchandise at a makeshift roadside store.

“In Michigan here, just our little part of Michigan, the support that we see here is just insane,” he said, as windblown snow pelted his customers. “I mean, for the last month and a half, it’s just been off the hook.”

Of the three big Northern swing states Mr. Trump won by a hair four years ago, the once reliably blue state of Pennsylvania is the one his advisers believe is most likely within his reach. That’s in large part because of the support of rural voters and Mr. Biden’s call for eventually phasing out fossil fuels, an unpopular stance for many voters in a state with a large natural gas industry.

Mr. Trump entered the final hours of the race in a worse position here than he was four years ago, when Pennsylvania was seen as Hillary Clinton’s firewall. This time, Mr. Biden has a lead of six points, according to a new New York Times/Siena College poll released Sunday, and is working to create multiple pathways to 270 electoral votes.

That lead, however, isn’t enough to make Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans feel fully confident about the state of the race in Pennsylvania. Some of the president’s opponents in recent days have been worried about turnout in the state’s rural counties, as well as calls about requested ballots that never arrived.

The Trump campaign ads running in Pennsylvania have been overwhelmingly centered on economic messages, mainly jobs and taxes. The campaign’s most aired ad in Pennsylvania over the past week has been a negative ad claiming Mr. Biden will raise taxes (he has said he will raise taxes for those making over $400,000).

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