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As Covid roars back in US, Trump stages rallies in Arizona

Reuters Goodyear | Updated on October 29, 2020

With less than a week before Election Day, US President Donald Trump held a pair of in-person campaign rallies in Arizona on Wednesday despite a surge in Covid-19 cases and criticism he is prioritising his re-election above the health of his supporters.

Also read: Covid control: Why the West lags the East

The pandemic that has upended life across the US this year, killing more than 227,000 people and causing millions of job losses, is roaring back in the days leading up to Tuesday's contest between Republican Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Biden holds a comfortable lead in national polls, which show a public increasingly dismayed by Trump's handling of the largest public health crisis in US living memory. Polls in battleground states that will likely decide the election are tighter than the national surveys.

At an outdoor rally in Goodyear, Arizona, outside of Phoenix, Trump continued to argue against taking stricter measures against the resurgent virus.

“Biden and the Democrat socialists will delay the vaccine, prolong the pandemic, shutter your schools and shut down our country,” Trump told the attendees, who were tightly packed together with just some wearing masks. “And your state is open right? Your state is nice and open.”

Also read: United States of Hypocrisy

A number of drugmakers are competing to bring a coronavirus vaccine to market, but one is not expected to be ready before next week's election.

‘Priceless’ rallies

A Trump adviser said the rallies were “priceless” given Biden’s dominance on the ad airwaves.

“These rallies generate significant free media coverage that helps offset whatever money advantage Biden has. Fox News basically runs the whole rallies. It’s a great asset,” the adviser said.

Biden raised about $130 million during the October 1-14 period, about three times the roughly $44 million raised by Trump's campaign, according to disclosures filed last Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

The adviser said Trump was typically holding rallies in portions of the country where masks are worn less and people are less concerned about the ill effects of Covid-19.

Also read: Trump says catching Covid-19 is a ‘blessing from god’

“If you overlay the rallies on a map, you would see they typically run along the same lines of the divide over Covid. So, really, there’s only upside,” the adviser said.

Thousands in attendance

Each of Trump's rallies in recent days has drawn several thousand people. Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said the rallies could backfire.

“More exposure doesn't necessarily lead to more votes, and I wonder if some on the fence might be turned off by the total disregard for Covid protocols,” Kondik said.

A pro-Biden group, Priorities USA Action, said its recent polling in six battleground states found that when people were told Trump was holding large rallies without mask-wearing requirements, most disapproved.

After a briefing from public health officials on Wednesday, Biden slammed what he called the Trump administration's disregard for safety and failure to develop a plan to contain Covid-19. Polls show Americans trust Biden more than Trump to contain the virus.

“The longer he's in charge the more reckless he gets,” Biden told reporters, before casting his own vote in Wilmington, Delaware.

Published on October 29, 2020

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