• Trump travels to Sun Belt in attempt to energize campaign.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Backed into a corner and facing financial strains, President Donald Trump went after his opponent’s family and defended his own struggle to contain the pandemic on Friday as he fought to energize his reelection bid in the nation’s Sun Belt. With Election Day looming, Democrat Joe Biden pushed to keep voters focused on health care in the Midwest.
Mr. Trump was campaigning in Florida and Georgia, neighboring states he carried four years ago and must win again to extend his presidency. His decision to devote Friday evening’s prime- time slot to Georgia in particular highlighted the serious nature of his challenge in the 2020 contest’s closing days: Far from his original plan to expand into Democraticleaning states, he is laboring to stave off a defeat of major proportions.
No Republican presidential candidate has lost Georgia since George H. W. Bush in 1992. And earlier this week, Mr. Trump had to court voters in Iowa, a state he carried by almost 10 points four years ago.
In Florida on Friday, the president derided the Bidens as “an organized
crime family,” renewing his daily claims about the candidate’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings in Ukraine and China.
More to the point for Mr. Trump’s Florida audience, he spoke directly to seniors who have increasingly soured on his handling of the pandemic.
“I am moving heaven and earth to safeguard our seniors from the China virus,” Mr. Trump said, using his usual blame- shifting term to describe the coronavirus. He also offered an optimistic assessment of the pandemic, even as a surge of new infections spread across America. “We are prevailing.”
Despite the tough talk, Mr. Trump’s actions on the ground in Florida
underscored the conflicting messages his administration has sent throughout the pandemic. All of the president’s security personnel and support staff were wearing face masks when Air Force One touched down, but Mr. Trump and Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis were bare- faced.
Crowds gathered at the president’s subsequent events, many without masks as well.
It was just the opposite as Mr. Biden opened his Michigan swing at a suburban Detroit community center. In keeping with his usual protocols, Mr. Biden and all of the participants wore masks throughout the event, except when they were speaking, and a small crowd of dozens of reporters and supporters watched from folding chairs separated by circles to ensure social distancing.
“He’s living in a dream world,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Trump’s rosy predictions of the pandemic. The former vice president then turned to the Trump administration’s court fight to overturn the “Obamacare” health coverage law — including its protection for people with pre- existing conditions — without having a replacement plan.
“Mishandling the pandemic isn’t enough for Trump,” Mr. Biden charged. “On top of that, he’s still trying to take away your health care.”
Meanwhile, the president’s campaign released new numbers suggesting he’s likely the first incumbent president to face a financial disadvantage in the modern era.
Mr. Trump’s campaign, along with the Republican National Committee and associated groups, raised $ 247.8 million in September, well short of the $ 383 million raised by Mr. Biden and the Democratic National Committee. To open October, the Trump effort officially had $ 251.4 million in the bank, a campaign spokesman said, compared with $ 432 million for Mr. Biden.
Senior White House aide Hope Hicks arrives to speak during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump on Friday at Ocala International Airport in Ocala, Fla.
Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones crowd surfs during a rally for President Donald Trump at Middle Georgia Regional Airport on Friday in Macon, Ga.