President Trump is seeking to recapture the last-minute energy that lifted him to a surprise win four years ago, undertaking an aggressive schedule of rallies that will bring him to some of the country’s top battlegrounds even as coronavirus cases surge.
The president will start on Saturday in Lumberton, a town in North Carolina, one of the most important states for determining not only the next president but also control of the United States Senate, with Senator Thom Tillis locked in a tight re-election race against his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham.
From there, Mr. Trump is off to Circleville, Ohio, outside of Columbus, and then Waukesha, Wis. On Sunday, He will fly to New Hampshire, the lone state on his weekend itinerary that he did not carry in 2016. The hopscotching schedule is reminiscent of 2016, when Mr. Trump flew from state to state for multiple events a day in his private plane.
Except then there was no pandemic, and this time the final stages of the presidential race are coinciding with a surge in cases and hospitalizations. “We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” Mr. Trump claimed inaccurately at Thursday’s debate.
The virus’s surge ensures that even Mr. Trump’s well-attended rallies can be a political liability, a reminder to voters fearful of the pandemic of his regular disregard for expert and public health advice.
His rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., will return to the campaign trail after a week dominated by debate preparations and capped by a speech on Friday in Delaware on the coronavirus, which the former vice president has made a centerpiece of his campaign and his closing argument. His opening line at the debate was counting the 220,000 dead Americans. “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” he said.
On Saturday, Mr. Biden will make two stops in Pennsylvania, both for drive-in rallies, a new style of event that his campaign has popularized during the pandemic. The first will come in Bucks County, outside of Philadelphia, and the second in the northeastern county of Luzerne, a former Democratic stronghold and one of three Pennsylvania counties that Mr. Trump flipped in 2016.
Pennsylvania is a top focus for the Biden campaign. Along with Mr. Biden’s appearances this weekend, Senator Bernie Sanders will be in western Pennsylvania on Saturday, holding a get-out-the vote event in Pittsburgh and a drive-in rally with the state’s lieutenant governor.
In a sign of Pennsylvania’s potential as the 2020 tipping point, the Biden campaign dispatched President Barack Obama there earlier in the week for his first in-person event of the general election. On Saturday, Mr. Obama will be in Miami for his second in-person event.
President Trump traveled to West Palm Beach,