President Trump will hold four rallies across Pennsylvania on Saturday and his wife, Melania, will host a fifth event in the swing state, as both the president and his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., zero in on what could be a linchpin in the race for the White House.
Mr. Trump prevailed in Pennsylvania in 2016 by less than 45,000 votes, and his itinerary on Saturday suggests some of the key demographic and geographic ingredients that he hopes to combine to create another surprise victory.
His first stop is in suburban Bucks County, where Hillary Clinton prevailed in 2016 by less than one percentage point. He will hold two events outside the major media markets, in Reading and in tiny Montoursville (population around 4,400), as he seeks to drive up turnout among the white, working-class and rural voters who overwhelmingly supported him four years ago.
He will also campaign in Butler, in western Pennsylvania, where he hopes his unabashed pro-fracking message holds sway. Melania Trump, meanwhile, will appear in Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania, a historically Democratic region that Mr. Trump flipped into the Republican column in 2016.
The Trumps will hardly have the state to themselves in the last days before Tuesday.
On Sunday, Mr. Biden will deliver one of his final speeches of the campaign in Philadelphia, the state’s biggest media market. And on Monday, both Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, will “fan out across all four corners of the state” with their spouses on the last full day of campaigning before voters head to the polls, according to the Biden campaign.
Mr. Biden, who represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate for decades, has long considered Pennsylvania something of a second home state, given the media market overlap and his own often-cited roots in Scranton, where he was born. He delivered his campaign kickoff speech in Philadelphia in May 2019; coming full circle, his Sunday speech, which his campaign says will be about “bringing Americans together to address the crises facing the country,” will occur in the same city.
Mr. Trump will return to Pennsylvania on Monday for an event near Scranton, with other stops in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan.
In 2016, Mr. Trump flipped three Rust Belt states that had been reliably Democratic by fewer than 80,000 votes in total: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And while polls have him trailing Mr. Biden in all three states, Pennsylvania has been the least Democratic-leaning in surveys this year, and its 20 Electoral College votes make it the biggest prize of the three.
At a rally in Michigan on Friday, President Trump repeated an extraordinary and unfounded claim that American doctors were profiteering from coronavirus deaths.
“You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid,” Mr. Trump said, adding that in Germany and other countries, deaths are characterized differently if there appear to be multiple causes.
“With us, when in doubt, choose Covid,” he said.
Medical professionals and organizations quickly decried those comments and lauded the work of nurses, doctors and other health care workers, many of whom have risked their lives and worried about the health of their families as they cared for people who were infected with the coronavirus.
“The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting Covid-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge,” said Susan R. Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association, in a statement on Friday.
“Rather than attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians, our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work — wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing,” she added.
Misleading claims about inflated death counts related to the coronavirus surfaced as early as April.
Coronavirus cases are rising in Michigan as a third wave of infections spreads across the country. This week, the state recorded a 91 percent increase in new cases from the average two weeks earlier.
Mr. Trump made a similar false claim about physicians at a campaign rally on Oct. 24 in Wisconsin — another state that has seen a surge in cases this month — when he said that “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” for reporting more deaths linked to the coronavirus.
That prompted a backlash from organizations including the Society of Hospital Medicine, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy,” the American College of Emergency Physicians said in a statement on Sunday.
On the campaign trail, the president has often declared that the virus was vanishing — even as case counts soared — and attacked Democratic governors and other local officials for keeping public-health restrictions in place.
A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Postal Service to implement “extraordinary measures” in 22 districts across the country — including several in battleground states — where on-time delivery of ballots has dipped below a rate of 90 percent for two days this week.
The postal districts in need of extra measures, according to Washington, D.C., District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, included Atlanta, central Pennsylvania, Detroit, Greater Michigan, Greensboro in North Carolina and Lakeland in Wisconsin — all key battleground areas in the presidential race between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Nationally, more than 54 million mail ballots have been returned to election officials, while more than 36 million remain outstanding, according to the nonprofit U.S. Elections Project.
Judge Sullivan also ordered the Postal Service to file with the court “explanations for the current level of service and any corrective measures that are now being implemented.”
In a filing on Friday, the Postal Service said that staffing issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic were causing problems in some facilities, including in central Pennsylvania and Detroit. Only 78 percent of employees are available, according to the filing.
“At the same time that staffing unavailability has become a factor, there has been an increased volume in package and market dominant products,” lawyers for the Postal Service wrote. “The Postal Service has worked diligently to employ corrective measures to resolve these issues.”
Figures reported by the service in court filings show that the nationwide figure for on-time delivery of mail ballots has bounced around this week, from 89 percent on Tuesday to 97 percent on Wednesday, amid wide variations in individual regions.
However, a video purportedly taken inside a Homestead, Fla., post office in disarray went viral on Friday, after Kionne McGhee, a candidate for Miami-Dade County commissioner and the Democratic minority leader in the Florida House of Representatives, posted it on Twitter. The videoshows numerous bins of undelivered mail piled on top of one other.
Judge Sullivan instructed the Postal Service to look into the video during a hearing on Friday.
Katherine Fernández Rundle, the Democratic state attorney in Miami-Dade County, said in a statement that she had requested an audit of all the county’s postal distribution centers, and asked that any ballots in the centers be taken immediately to the Department of Elections.
To try to alleviate Democrats’ fears, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — who has disputed criticism that he is trying to sabotage the election — authorized new measures this week that include “expedited handling, extra deliveries and special pickups” to accelerate ballot delivery.
Still, the Postal Service has contested claims that states have a protected right to certain delivery standards. In a separate court case against the Postal Service, the U.S. Department of Justice argued that states did not have a constitutional right to expect “a certain level of service” from the agency, which was reported on Tuesday by Bloomberg.
Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.