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Friday September 17th, 2021 9:12AM

Biden goes on offense in Georgia while Trump targets Midwest

By The Associated Press
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WARM SPRINGS, Ga. (AP) — One week until Election Day, Joe Biden went on offense Tuesday, heading to Georgia, which hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1992 and pushing into other territory where President Donald Trump was once expected to easily repeat his wins from four years ago.

The Democratic presidential nominee planned to travel to Iowa, which Trump took by 10 points in 2016, later in the week. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is hitting Arizona and Texas, where Republicans haven’t lost any statewide office since 1994 — the nation’s longest political winning streak.

The aggressive schedule is a sign of confidence by the Biden team, which is trying to stretch the electoral map and open up more paths to 270 electoral college votes. Trump is countering by focusing on the Democrats' “blue wall” states that he flipped in 2016 and maintaining a far busier travel schedule that will take him to more of the country.

He was traveling to the Michigan capital of Lansing and visiting West Salem, Wisconsin, just three days after holding a rally in the state. First lady Melania Trump was on the road, too, making her first solo campaign trip of the year.

Why was Biden spending precious time in Georgia?

“If this was the Georgia of 2008, 2012, I think there’s no way we would have seen a Biden come this late,” said Nsé Ufot, chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project, which aims to increase voter registration, especially among young people and minorities. “It’s a loud signal and acknowledgment of Georgia as a battleground state.”

After Hillary Clinton flirted with GOP territory in 2016, only to lose those states as well as traditional Democratic Midwestern strongholds, Biden’s campaign is mindful of overreaching. Still, a top Biden adviser rejected the notion that the campaign is spreading itself too thin, noting that the former vice president’s visit follows weeks of a paid advertising in Georgia and visits by Harris and Jill Biden.

The state, the adviser said, has the right mix of young voters, nonwhite voters whose ranks are increasing and anti-Trump suburban voters to build a winning Biden coalition. Biden will also visit in coming days Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, where former President Barack Obama gave a speech in Orlando.

“We've got to outhustle the other side," Obama said, noting that Florida, the nation's largest consistent swing state, could help Biden run up the Electoral College score.

Trump expressed his displeasure that Fox News carried his Democratic predecessor’s speech live, tweeting the network was “playing Obama’s no crowd, fake speech for Biden.”

Melania Trump was making her first solo rally appearance of the campaign, in Pennsylvania, weeks after she tested positive for the coronavirus. She tweeted about her husband before her arrival, “The people of that great state know President @realDonaldTrump will always fight to keep Americans safe, secure, & prosperous."

Both Trumps left for their campaign trips at the same time, and the president gave the first lady a quick peck on the cheek before they boarded separate planes.

The president will also visit Omaha, Nebraska, after a Sunday stop in Maine. That anticipates a razor-thin Electoral College margin since both areas offer one electoral vote by congressional district. He said of Nebraska’s second congressional district, which includes Omaha, “I’d like to get it.”

While Biden rarely travels to more than one state per day, the Republican president has maintained a whirlwind schedule, focusing on his argument that he built a booming economy before the coronavirus pandemic upended it. Trump will overnight Tuesday in Las Vegas, but is staying equally aggressive after that, planning to hold a dizzying 11 rallies in the final 48 hours before polls close.

His latest swing is also a victory lap after the Senate on Monday approved the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and gave conservatives a commanding 6-3 advantage on the Supreme Court. Trump has sought to use the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month to animate conservative evangelical and Catholic voters to his candidacy, but the high court fight has been overshadowed by concerns over the coronavirus with cases surging.

Biden, meanwhile, is hoping to lift Democrats running for Senate in Georgia and Iowa. He planned to visit Atlanta after unveiling his closing message during a speech in Warm Springs, Georgia, where natural hot springs offered President Franklin Delano Roosevelt comfort as he battled polio and governed a nation weathering the Great Depression and World War II.

The former vice president's campaign says his appearance will bookend his visit earlier this month to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when Biden used the site of the bloody Civil War battle to issue a call for bipartisanship and putting country ahead of party. On Tuesday, he will try to evoke Roosevelt's New Deal sensitivities.

“This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the past four years behind us,” Biden declares in a 60-second closing ad airing on national cable channels and 16 states that his campaign considers battlegrounds.

With more than a third of the expected ballots in the election already cast, it is increasingly challenging for Trump and Biden to reshape the race. Biden is leading in most national polls and has an advantage, though narrower, in many key battlegrounds.

The campaign's final week is colliding with deepening concerns about the COVID crisis. Trump is anxious for voters to focus on other issues such as the economy. Biden, meanwhile, has repeatedly hit Trump on the virus while presenting himself as a safer, more stable alternative.

Several close aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus last weekend, including his chief of staff, Marc Short. Pence, though, has maintained a packed travel schedule. On Tuesday he was to be in South Carolina, where Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is in a potentially tight reelection race. Graham is expecting to get a boost from conservatives for helping to speed Barrett's nomination through the Senate.

Biden has accused Trump of “waving the white flag” in his response to the virus, while Trump says that the former vice president “waved a white flag on life.”

Democrats have been heartened by their lead in the record numbers of early votes that have been cast across a number of battleground states. An important caveat, though, is Republicans are more likely to turn out on Election Day.

___

Weissert and Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press Writer Bill Barrow contributed from Atlanta.

___

AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/.

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