Trump fights in Florida, Ge­or­gia to build sup­port

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Steve Peo­ples, Darlene Su­perville and Bill Bar­row Steve Peo­ples, Darlene Su­perville and Bill Bar­row are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

FORT MY­ERS, Fla. — Backed into a cor­ner and fac­ing fi­nan­cial strains, Pres­i­dent Trump fought to de­fend his sag­ging re­elec­tion bid Fri­day, court­ing se­niors and African Amer­i­cans in the Sun­belt, in­clud­ing one state Repub­li­cans haven’t lost in nearly three decades. With elec­tion day loom­ing, Demo­crat Joe Bi­den pushed to keep vot­ers fo­cused on health care in the Mid­west.

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 prime­time 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, Trump 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 in this week, Trump courted vot­ers in Iowa, a state he car­ried by al­most 10 points four years ago.

At his first of two stops Fri­day in Florida, the pres­i­dent 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,” Trump said, us­ing his usual blameshift­ing term to de­scribe the coro­n­avirus. He also of­fered an op­ti­mistic as­sess­ment of the pan­demic, even as a surge of new in­fec­tions spread across Amer­ica.

De­spite the tough talk, 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 Trump and Florida’s Repub­li­can Gov. Ron Desan­tis did not.

Mean­while, the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign re­leased new num­bers late Thurs­day sug­gest­ing he is likely the first in­cum­bent pres­i­dent to face a fi­nan­cial dis­ad­van­tage in the mod­ern era.

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 Bi­den and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. To open Oc­to­ber, the Trump ef­fort of­fi­cially had $251.4 mil­lion in the bank, ac­cord­ing to a cam­paign spokesman, com­pared with $432 mil­lion for Bi­den.

The former vice pres­i­dent planned to con­tinue chal­leng­ing Trump’s record on the pan­demic and his years­long un­ful­filled prom­ises to cre­ate a stronger and more af­ford­able health care sys­tem in bat­tle­ground Michi­gan.

Joe Rae­dle / Getty Im­ages

Sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Trump lis­ten as the na­tional an­them is played be­fore the ar­rival of the pres­i­dent for a cam­paign rally at the Ocala In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Florida.

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