Final Weekend Campaigning Reflects Both Traditional Barnstorming and 2020 Chaos

President Trump predicted “bedlam” and a lack of clarity about the presidential results until weeks after Election Day as he barnstormed Pennsylvania, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made his first joint appearance with former President Barack Obama at an event in Michigan. The last Saturday before Election Day offered traditional last-minute frantic campaigning in battleground states played against the backdrop of the extraordinary rancor, high stakes and sense of disruption reflecting a pandemic, an economic downturn and recurring protests and unrest at the close of Mr. Trump’s first term. In remarks in Newtown, Pa., and Reading, Pa., Mr. Trump stoked fears of an election left unsettled after voting closes on Nov. 3 and about the prospects that ballots would not count. “You’re going to be waiting for weeks” as votes are counted, Mr. Trump declared in Newtown. “Many, many days,” he went on. “So you’re going to be watching on Nov. 3. I think it’s highly likely you’re not going to have a decision, because Pennsylvania’s very big. We’re going to be waiting. Nov. 3 is going to come and go, and we’re not going to know. And you’re going to have bedlam in our country.”At his next stop, in Reading, Mr. Trump derided a Supreme Court decision rejecting a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to decide whether the state could continue accepting ballots for three days after Nov. 3. “You see what’s going on, right?” Mr. Trump said of Democrats. “Somebody’s going to play games, and they just got an extension. What’s the extension all about? Wouldn’t you like to hear, Nov. 3, we win, we lose? We win, we lose. Whatever.” The president called the decision “disappointing” and added, “Many, many disappointing opinions from the Supreme Court. They talk about we control the Supreme — well we don’t control the Supreme Court. That was a terrible decision.”The question of how long ballots can be accepted in battleground states has been a dominant one as Nov. 3 approaches. So has the question of whether Mr. Trump will try to declare victory if he is leading in specific states on Election Day, regardless of whether they have been called in his favor. Mr. Trump barely addressed the coronavirus pandemic at his first two stops, other than to praise his administration, complain about Mr. Biden’s focus on the pandemic and to falsely claim once again that the country was “rounding the turn” as the number of daily new cases nationally has spiked to almost 100,000. Mr. Obama, appearing with Mr. Biden in Flint, Mich., at their first stop of the day, mocked Mr. Trump as heartless.

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Noting Mr. Trump’s baseless claim a day earlier that doctors were profiting from coronavirus deaths, Mr. Obama said, “He cannot fathom — he does not understand — the notion that somebody would risk their life to save others without trying to make a buck.”Mr. Trump is continuing to hold crowded rallies as the pandemic rages, and Mr. Obama ridiculed him for his fixation on crowd sizes, asking: “Did no one come to his birthday party when he was a kid? Was he traumatized?”Mr. Biden spoke next, praising Mr. Obama and ripping Mr. Trump over the pandemic as well. He too invoked Mr. Trump’s baseless statement made at a rally on Friday about doctors and coronavirus-related fatalities.“What in the hell is wrong with this man?” Mr. Biden asked. “Excuse my language, but think about it. It’s perverted. He may believe it because he doesn’t do anything other than for money.”Where both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden campaigned on Saturday was as revealing as what both men said. The two states were part of the so-called Blue Wall — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which have leaned Democratic in recent national elections but which were crucial to Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.Mr. Trump has struggled in all three states throughout the 2020 campaign and is pressing to keep at least one of the three as part of his map this year, in an election cycle marked by a coronavirus pandemic and an economic recession. Pennsylvania is seen by Mr. Trump’s advisers as the likeliest state among the three for him to win.In Newtown in Bucks County, Mr. Trump delivered a subdued speech, speaking from the teleprompter at first, to several hundred people seated in folding chairs arrayed in a field in front of a stage and a podium.Updated Oct. 31, 2020, 7:26 p.m. ETThe speech took place in a field in front of the farmhouse where George Washington planned the crossing of the Delaware River. The small crowd sat close together, mostly unmasked. Unlike it has done at his other rallies, Mr. Trump’s campaign did not position energetic supporters in a stand behind him.The president criticized Mr. Biden’s record on trade in a state hit hard in recent years by job losses and after the economic downturn this year caused by the coronavirus.Mr. Trump’s teleprompter appeared to have problems at one point, but for the first 45 minutes of his appearance, the president tried to stick to a speech that appeared designed to present him in a more “presidential” light, avoiding some of the angry and defensive outbursts that have been central to his rallies.But then he appeared to lose interest in the speech and began to riff about Mr. Biden’s son Hunter, about his own news coverage and how unfair he thinks the coverage has been of his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.He mocked Mr. Biden for wearing sunglasses and dismissed his Democratic rival as merely a puppet of liberal Democrats in Congress.And he went on a long, improvised riff about his administration’s production of ventilators as he downplayed concerns about the coronavirus even as the country neared 100,000 new cases a day, with hospitalizations spiking. “We have done an incredible job. At some point they are going to recognize that,” Mr. Trump said after mocking Mr. Biden for focusing too much on the virus. “We’ve done an A-plus job. I give ourselves a D, or maybe an F, in terms of public relations.” On Saturday, he said of Mr. Biden’s concerns about the pandemic, “We agree, we agree it’s serious,” but added that his rival’s “only plan is to make you a prisoner in your home, a prisoner in your own country.”.In Reading, Mr. Trump seemed buoyed by a bigger crowd than at his previous stop, as he talked about his own bout of the coronavirus and the fact that the first lady had caught it as well. Joking, he said, “At least those rumors that we don’t live together turned out to be false.” Separately, for the second straight day, Mr. Biden traveled to the Upper Midwest, a critical region where he has multiple ambitions: to win back voters who drifted to Mr. Trump in 2016 and to turn out as many traditional Democratic voters, including Black residents, as possible.After making stops in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin on Friday, Mr. Biden devoted Saturday to Michigan. He enlisted a marquee surrogate to help his cause: Mr. Obama, whose presence the campaign hoped would excite voters and help drive turnout in the campaign’s final days. In the past two weeks, Mr. Obama campaigned solo for Mr. Biden in Pennsylvania and Florida, but Saturday was the first time in the general election that he and Mr. Biden had campaigned together in person. The former president has the potential to help Mr. Biden, who served two terms as his vice president, with key groups like Black voters as well as younger people who might not be naturally drawn to a septuagenarian moderate like Mr. Biden.At a drive-in car rally in Flint, Mr. Obama laid into Mr. Trump over his handling of the pandemic, emphasizing a theme that has been a central message for Mr. Biden in the closing days of the campaign.Later, in Detroit, hundreds of people waited in cars to see Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden on Belle Isle, a state park on an island in the middle of the Detroit River with expansive views of the skylines of Detroit and of Windsor, Ontario.“The last four years have been hell,” said Miriam Pizana of Detroit, who came to the rally with her daughter Kristen. “We never knew what the chief of staff or communications directors’ names were before, and now we know them all, and not for anything good.”Kathleen Gray contributed reporting.

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