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Suzanne Lynch’s US election diary: All eyes on the midwest battlegrounds

Trump and Biden take to the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota

All eyes are on the midwest on Friday as the two presidential candidates descend on the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016 was based on his surprise win in a trio of states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – which had traditionally voted Democrat. Though he won each state by less than one per cent, they delivered him 46 electoral college votes, pushing him past the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election.

Four years later, polls suggest that the president is on the backfoot in all three states with just four days to go in the election. The addition of Minnesota into the mix, however, is interesting. The state last voted Republican in 1972 when Minnesotans chose to send Richard Nixon to the White House. The Trump campaign believes they have a chance of winning the state,  and the last-minute announcement by the Biden campaign that the former vice-president will visit there today could suggest that Democrats are worried. Further, a federal appeals court ruled last night that Minnesota can only accept absentee ballots that arrive by 8 pm on election day, in contrast to the situation in other states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina where states can continue to count votes after the election, as long as they are postmarked by November 3rd.  Here's my recent report from Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Florida was the focus on Thursday, as both candidates campaigned in the Sunshine State. Trump was forced to postpone a rally scheduled for North Carolina last night for weather-related reasons as the remnants of Hurricane Zeta, which has battered Louisiana, swept north. News of the cancellation coincided with reports that two people who attended Trump's most recent North Carolina rally have tested positive for coronavirus. The president continued to play down the effect of Covid-19 nonetheless. Despite more than 228,000 people losing their lives to the virus, Mr Trump told supporters in Florida: "You know the bottom line, though? You're gonna get better. You're gonna get better. If I can get better, anybody can get better. And I got better fast." Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said "there's going to be a whole lot of pain in this country" if cases continue to spike, warning that the US is "going in the wrong direction" in terms of Covid infection rates.  America's cases hit a new landmark yesterday, recording the highest daily number since the onset of the pandemic, with more than 85,000 cases reported.


Meanwhile, Walmart, one of America’s largest retailers, announced it was withdrawing guns and ammunition from display in its stores, citing concerns about “civil unrest”. Walmart sells firearms in around half of its 4,700 stores across the country.

Quote of the Day

"This is boring… but it's really good," Donald Trump going off script at an election rally in Florida when he was supposed to be focusing on better-than-expected GDP figures for the third quarter that were released yesterday.

On the Campaign Trail today

Trump will hold two rallies in Michigan, a state he won by just over 10,000 votes four years ago, before travelling on to Wisconsin. He will finish the day with a campaign event in Minnesota.

Joe Biden will campaign in Wisconsin in the afternoon, ahead of an event in St Paul, Minnesota. Along with Minneapolis, St Paul is the state's primary urban centre, with a strong Democratic vote.

Biden's running mate Kamala Harris will campaign in Texas – an indication that Democrats believe they have a chance of flipping this Republican-leaning state. Early voting is already at more than 90 per cent of the total number of votes cast in 2016.  Her husband Doug Emhoff will continue with campaigning despite the fact that members of his team are quarantining over concern about a possible coronavirus exposure. He will campaign in Nevada on Friday.

Recommended Reads

I'm reporting from the battleground state of Michigan, where the race for the White House may be decided in the suburbs of Detroit.

This week's Economist endorses Joe Biden. "The country that elected Donald Trump in 2016 was unhappy and divided. The country he is asking to re-elect him is more unhappy and more divided," the magazine states as it set out its case against Trump.

"What happens to Fox News if Trump loses?" An interesting piece in the Washington Post, which asserts that data-focused article by CNN suggests that Republicans are closing the gap with Democrats in terms of early-voting.