WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to intensify an already breakneck travel schedule in the final full week of the presidential campaign, overlooking a surge of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and a fresh outbreak in his own White House.
Trump is expected to hit nearly a dozen states in his last-ditch effort to recover ground from Democrat Joe Biden, including Sunday’s trip to Maine and Tuesday’s to Nebraska. Both states award electoral votes by congressional district and could be crucial in a tight election. He will hold 11 rallies in the final 48 hours alone.
Biden, too, plans to pick up his travel schedule, aiming to hit the six battleground states the campaign sees as key to his chances, some with socially distanced in-person events and others with virtual events. On Tuesday the former vice president is traveling to Georgia, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in more than a quarter-century but where polls show a tight race.
The final week of the campaign is colliding with deepening concerns about a public health crisis in the U.S. Trump is eager for voters to focus on almost anything else, worried that he will lose if the election becomes a referendum on his handling of the pandemic. Biden is working to ensure the race is just that, hitting Trump on the virus and presenting himself as a safer, more stable alternative.
The stakes were clear this weekend as the White House became the locus for a second outbreak of the virus in a month. Several close aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus, including his chief of staff, Marc Short. Pence, though, was insistent on maintaining his aggressive political calendar, even though he was deemed a “close contact” of his adviser, claiming the privileges of being an “essential employee.”
The latest outbreak has served as a potent metaphor for the divergent approaches the Trump and Biden campaigns have taken to the virus. On Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that “we’re not going to control the pandemic” and the focus should be on containment and treatment. Trump aims to pack thousands of people, most without face coverings, across some of the upper Midwestern states bearing the brunt of the surge.
“We want normal life to resume,” Trump said Sunday. “We just want normal life.”
Meadows, pressed to explain why the pandemic cannot