Trump votes in Florida before rallies; Biden focusing on Pennsylvania

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump said he voted Saturday “for a guy named Trump” and called it an “honor” to cast his own ballot in his adopted home state of Florida before he jetted off to campaign in three battleground states.

Democrat Joe Biden, with some help from rock legend Jon Bon Jovi, was focusing on hotly contested pockets of Pennsylvania that could prove key to deciding the outcome of the race in the state.

Trump, who spent the night at his Mar-a-Lago resort after campaigning Friday in Florida, stopped at an early voting polling site set up at a public library. The president last year switched his official residence from New York to his private Florida club, complaining that New York politicians had treated him badly.

Greeted at the polling site by a crowd of cheering supporters, Trump could have mailed in his ballot, but opted to vote in person. He wore a mask inside, following local rules in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden hasn’t voted and is likely do so in person on Election Day, Nov. 3., as Delaware doesn’t offer early voting. Trump, who has made unsubstantiated claims of massive fraud about mail-in voting, gave another plug to in-person voting.

“When you send in your ballot it could never be like that. It could never be secure like that,” said Trump before leaving for his campaign stops in three states.

Rallies were planned for Lumberton, North Carolina, Circleville, Ohio, and Waukesha, Wisconsin, and the president promises to go full throttle over the final 10 days of the campaign even as the number of new daily coronavirus cases continues to climb.

The United States has hit a daily record of coronavirus cases with more than 83,000 reported infections, thousands more than the previous U.S. peak in July. The U.S. death toll has grown to nearly 224,00, according to the tally published by Johns Hopkins University. The total U.S. caseload reported Friday was 83,757, topping the 77,362 cases reported on July 16.

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The numbers are an ominous sign the disease still has a firm grip on the nation that has more confirmed virus-related deaths and infections than any other in the world. Many states are reporting a surge of cases and say hospitals are running out of space in areas where the pandemic seemed remote only months ago.

Biden has focused much of his attention on making the case to voters that Trump doesn’t deserve a second term because of his handling of the pandemic. He punctuated the point in a podcast interview with former Obama administration aides that aired Saturday.

“Get control of the virus. Get control of coronavirus,” Biden told the Pod Save America. “”Without that, nothing else is going to work very well.”

Biden planned drive-in events in Bucks County, part of suburban Philadelphia that 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won by a slim margin, and Luzerne County, a blue-collar area that twice voted for Barack Obama but went overwhelmingly for Trump four years ago. Biden’s campaign said the former vice president will be joined by Bon Jovi, a native of neighboring New Jersey, who will sing at the Luzerne event.

Bon Jovi was part of a huge outdoor concert in November 2016 with the Obamas and Clinton in Philadelphia. That event came mere hours before Clinton lost to Donald Trump.

More than 54 million votes have already been cast, with an additional 100 million or so expected before a winner is declared.

The pandemic has pushed Trump onto the defensive for much of the fall, but for the moment it is Biden’s team that has been forced to explain itself. In the final minutes of Thursday night’s debate, the former vice president said he supports a “transition” away from oil in the U.S. in favor of renewable energy. The campaign released a statement hours later declaring that he would phase out taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel companies, not the industry altogether.

But Trump, campaigning in Florida, repeatedly seized on the issue.

“That could be one of the biggest mistakes made in presidential debate history,” he said at a Friday rally at The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in central Florida. Later, in Pensacola, Trump recounted the moment with glee.

While Florida is still logging thousands of new COVID-19 cases daily, audience members stood and sat shoulder-to-shoulder and Make America Great Again hats far outnumbered face coverings. In-person voting in the state began Monday.

As part of his damage control, Biden dispatched running mate Kamala Harris to help clarify his position as she campaigned in swing state Georgia.

“Let’s be really clear about this: Joe Biden is not going to ban fracking,” Harris said, referring to a technique that uses pressurized liquid to extract oil or natural gas. “He is going to deal with the oil subsidies. You know, the president likes to take everything out of context. But let’s be clear, what Joe was talking about was banning subsidies, but he will not ban fracking in America.”

As for Biden and oil, while ending the nation’s reliance on fossil fuel is popular among many liberals, the idea could hurt him among working-class voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas who depend on the industry, and fracking in particular, to make a living.

Trump’s allies immediately began running new attack ads seizing on the Democrats’ inconsistent answers on energy. And Trump played a video at his Pensacola rally that included past comments from Biden and Harris about fracking, which Harris supported banning during her primary campaign.

As part of his plan to fight climate change, Biden has said he would ban new gas and oil permits — including fracking — on federal lands only. The vast majority of oil and gas does not come from federal lands.

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Weissert reported from Wilmington, Delaware, and Madhani from Washington.

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