President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. headed into the final weekend of the presidential campaign barnstorming a series of Midwestern states that will help decide who wins the presidency — and that are all grappling with coronavirus outbreaks so severe that the federal government considers them in the “red zone.”
Their differing approaches to the virus came into more vivid relief with each campaign stop.
Even as the country reported a record number of coronavirus cases in the past week, Mr. Trump continued to insist on Friday that the disease was not serious.
At a rally in Michigan, he made the extraordinary and unfounded accusation that American doctors were profiteering from coronavirus deaths, claiming they were paid more if they report that patients have died of the virus. He also mocked Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host who attended the rally, for wearing a mask, saying she was being “very politically correct.”
Mr. Biden, in Iowa, took the opposite approach, pointing out the record number of new cases in the state and noting that the Iowa State Fair had been canceled this year for the first time since World War II. “And Donald Trump has given up,” Mr. Biden said.
At a stop in Minnesota, Mr. Biden brought up Mr. Trump’s accusation about doctors profiting from virus deaths as he assailed the president over his handling of the pandemic.
“Doctors and nurses go to work every day to save lives,” Mr. Biden said “They do their jobs. Donald Trump should stop attacking them and do his job.”
The candidates were planning to stump in four states: both had planned stops in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and Mr. Biden appeared in Iowa while Mr. Trump held a rally in Michigan. All four states were listed as being in the “red zone” for virus cases in a report issued this week by the White House coronavirus task force, which cited their high per capita rate of cases.
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 due 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.
On the Trail
Angry at restrictions on gatherings in Minnesota that prevented him from speaking in front of a large crowd of supporters, President Trump, campaigning in the city of Rochester, stalked off the stage after less than 30 minutes at his final stop of the day Friday.
Mr. Trump claimed there were “25,000 people who wanted to be here tonight,” and blamed Democratic leaders like Keith Ellison, the state’s attorney general, for preventing his supporters from gathering.
Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, a Democrat, limited gatherings to fewer than 250 people. Mr. Trump lashed out at Mr. Walz and Mr. Ellison, claiming his supporters were “barred from entry by radical Democrats.”
“Keith Ellison and Joe Biden want to imprison you in your homes,” he said, “while anarchists roam free.” The president added, “the Democratic Party wants you to be banned from peaceful assembly while they allow their supporters to burn down a police precinct.”
A spokesman for Mr. Walz said, “Governor Walz thanks President Trump for finally following public health guidance at a campaign rally.”
Mr. Trump, who greeted supporters along a rope line ahead of the rally, left the stage without his usual finishing flourishes, where he talks about “winning, winning, winning” and dances to “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People.
Instead, he focused on a dark future that Americans would experience if Mr. Biden is elected.
“Under the Biden lock down, which he talks about and cherishes, countless Americans will die from suicide,” Mr. Trump said.
In reality, Mr. Biden has made it clear that he wants to “shut down the virus,” not the economy. But Mr. Trump still tried to paint a bleak picture of life under a Biden presidency, with “no weddings no Thanksgiving, no Christmas, no Fourth of July.” He added, “There will be no future for America’s youth.”
Four years ago, Mr. Trump barely set foot in Minnesota, and lost the state to Hillary Clinton by 1.5 percentage points, or less than 45,000 votes. He has since viewed it as the one that got away, and before the coronavirus, his aides had been bullish about flipping the state to his column this year.
Secretary of State Steve Simon of Minnesota said on Friday that his office will not oppose a federal appeals court decision ordering election officials to set aside any ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. on election night, effectively tossing out a seven-day grace period that had been in place for ballots postmarked by Election Day.
The state, however, has not ruled out the possibility of bringing a lawsuit after the election to “protect voters,” Mr. Simon said.
“We disagree with the court’s decision, and there may be cause for litigation later,” Mr. Simon said. And while he agreed that the state will segregate ballots received after the 8 p.m. deadline, he added that “there is no court ruling yet saying those ballots are invalid.”
Thursday’s decision, issued just five days before the election, came as an estimated 578,000 absentee ballots that had been requested in the state have not been returned, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Many of those ballots could already be in the mail, or voters can still return ballots in person.
Citing the ruling, several officials urged voters to return their ballots in person. “DO NOT put your ballots in the mail,” Representative Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter.
🗣 Because of this ruling, 500,000 Minnesotans could be disenfranchised.
Hillary Clinton won our state by just 45,000 votes.
DO NOT put your ballots in the mail.
Vote in-person or drop off your mail-in ballot. Find the nearest drop-off location here: https://t.co/JW3ipWv5yu https://t.co/UtYaQaY975— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 30, 2020
In its 2-to-1 ruling, the court said that the Minnesota secretary of state had “extended the deadline for receipt of ballots without legislative authorization.”
“The consequences of this order are not lost on us,” the court majority wrote. “We acknowledge and understand the concerns over voter confusion, election administration issues, and public confidence in the election.”
But, the court said, “we conclude the challenges that will stem from this ruling are preferable to a postelection scenario where mail-in votes, received after the statutory deadline, are either intermingled with ballots received on time or invalidated without prior warning. Better to put those voters on notice now while they still have at least some time to adjust their plans and cast their votes in an unquestionably lawful way.”
Judge Jane L. Kelly, in a dissenting opinion, said that the decision “will cause voter confusion and undermine Minnesotans’ confidence in the election process.” She said it also risked disenfranchising voters in Minnesota.
Elections officials in the state have been instructing voters who had not mailed their ballots by Tuesday to return them by drop box or to vote in person. But the decision still puts the fate of an unknown number of ballots at risk.
Democrats in Minnesota denounced the decision.
“In the middle of a pandemic, the Republican Party is doing everything to make it hard for you to vote,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota and a Democrat, said on Twitter. “Stand up for YOUR rights: Vote in-person or take mail-in ballot directly to ballot box.”
As the sun set on Tampa’s C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library on Friday evening, a steady stream of mostly Black voters trickled in, hoping to cast their ballots four days before Election Day.
For Democrats, the question of what turnout looks like at early voting sites like this one is a crucial factor in their prospects for winning back Florida, an elusive battleground state. They hope to offset what is expected to be significant Republican turnout on Election Day, and are counting on strong turnout from Democratic voters of color, as well as from white progressives and white moderates who have rejected the Republican Party in the Trump era.
But at a time when turnout has been especially high in heavily Republican counties, some Democrats have raised concerns about turnout so far among some Black and Latino voters in Florida who tend to support their party.
While there are signs that Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, has cut into the traditional Republican advantage with senior citizens, there is also evidence that he is struggling with some more conservative-leaning Latino constituencies in Florida. Democrats also worry about his standing with Black and Hispanic men in particular.
At the Tampa library early Friday evening, while voters entered and exited at a quick clip and some dropped off ballots, there did not appear to be a line. Some of the voters on hand also did not appear especially enthused about Mr. Biden, though many said they were voting for him.
Antonio Payne, 48, said he would probably vote for him in part because he believed that President Trump was a racist.
Mr. Payne said he was voting for the first time after a ballot measure restored voting rights to people who had been convicted of a felony, like he once was. But he also expressed reservations about Mr. Biden, noting his work on the 1994 Crime Bill, which many experts now associate with mass incarceration.
“I was in that situation, and I’ve seen the effect it took on people and their families,” said Mr. Payne, a mechanic.
He added that he hoped Mr. Biden would “do a better job than Donald Trump.”
Barbara Turner, 48, was not so sure he would.
“To me it’s, Who’s going to get the job done?” Ms. Turner, who works in customer service, said. “Sometimes they say the word ‘Democrat’ and it automatically means it’s for the Black people. But that’s not true.”
Would she support Mr. Trump?
“Who knows,” she said, as she walked in to vote.
ON THE TRAIL
In Iowa, Biden Criticizes Trump’s Treatment of Farmers
Joseph R. Biden Jr. slammed President Trump on Friday for trade policies that have “cost farmers and manufacturing so badly.”
They’re Iowa values, they’re American values. You value honor, decency, respect and dignity. You know they all matter. They matter a lot. That’s who we are. And as we saw in the debate, we’re a farmer’s daughter knows a break-even point for price of corn, crops. You think that’d be fairly basic. That’s like my not knowing where the Delaware River was back home. Let’s not forget how Donald Trump’s weak and chaotic China trade policy has cost farmers and manufacturing. so badly. Agricultural exports to China during the Trump years have been 40% lower than during the Obama-Biden second term. On his watch. He says because of his bailouts, our farmers do better now than when they actually had a farm. I got to read that again. Our farmers actually doing better now than when they actually had a farm. Where’s this guy from? In 2008 and 2012, you placed your trust in Barack Obama and me, and we worked for you, for the entire country. Well, I’ll do it again in 2020.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. hurled a barrage of attacks at President Trump during a drive-in rally in Iowa on Friday, slamming him on his mismanagement of the coronavirus response and denouncing his trade policies that have “cost farmers and manufacturing so badly,” in a sign of how competitive the state has become with just four days left in the campaign.
Speaking at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines, Mr. Biden made a series of direct appeals to Iowans, noting the surge of coronavirus cases in the state and speaking more than usual about trade policies in terms of how they have affected farmers, who make up a considerable part of the state’s economy.
And in an especially blunt entreaty, he reminded voters that they had helped elect him and former President Obama, who won the state twice.
“In 2008 and 2012, you placed your trust in Barack Obama and me, and we worked for you, for the entire country,” he said. “I’ll do it again in 2020.”
Mr. Biden also praised the Democratic candidate for United States Senate, Theresa Greenfield, who is in a very tight race against her Republican opponent, Senator Joni Ernst. In a particularly biting barb in a state blanketed with farms, he knocked Ms. Ernst for not knowing the correct break-even price of soybeans, a key crop in Iowa, at a recent Senate debate.
“You’d think that’d be fairly basic,” he said. “That’s like my not knowing where the Delaware River was back home.”
While Iowa could be crucial to a Biden victory this year, the state was not kind to him during the first-in-the-nation caucuses nine months ago, when he came in fourth.
But Mr. Biden now finds himself in a much stronger position, in part because of the bungled coronavirus response by Mr. Trump and Iowa’s mask-resistant Republican governor, Kim Reynolds. The state is seeing a sharp increase in coronavirus rates, with outbreaks racing through several meatpacking plants. The virus has killed more than 1,700 people there.
Iowa Democrats think Mr. Biden has a decent chance to win back a state where Barack Obama won by nearly 6 percentage points in 2012 but Mr. Trump won by more than nine points in 2016.
“People here are cautiously optimistic and see this as a real shot to win,” said Zach Wahls, a prominent state senator in eastern Iowa who supported Ms. Warren in the caucuses.
“On caucus night, I don’t think I would have ever said that I’d be excited to vote for Joe Biden,” he said. “And I was thrilled to vote for Joe Biden.”
Complicating matters, however, may be the coronavirus, which continues to rampage across the state. On Thursday, NPR reported that voters would not be able to cast their ballots at at many of their usual polling places in cities including Waterloo, Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs because of closures and consolidations resulting from the virus.
Mr. Biden is set to hold two more rallies on Friday, in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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.
In yet another illustration of how the coronavirus has upended campaigning and voting — and in many cases deepened partisan divisions — masks, and the mandates over wearing them, have lately become the focus of lawsuits in several states.
One complaint that made it to the Supreme Court this week involves a challenge by a conservative voter-rights group in Minnesota against the governor’s order mandating face masks in public places.
It was one of numerous cases that are testing the boundaries of health directives in public and at polling places, just as the number of coronavirus cases rises toward a third peak.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, had issued an order mandating masks in public in July. In August, a group called the Minnesota Voters Alliance, along with five voters, sued state officials, claiming that the order violated the First Amendment and contradicted an older law that banned disguises in public.
This month Judge Patrick J. Schiltz, a federal district judge in Minnesota, ruled against the plaintiffs, writing, “There is no question that Minnesota has the constitutional authority to enact measures to protect the health and safety of its citizens.”
But this week, the plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to intervene, according their lawyer, Erick Kaardal. Their emergency application said that “Minnesota’s conflicting mask policies are the constitutional problem” and asked Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to block the governor’s order before Election Day. Justice Gorsuch may rule on the application himself or refer it to the full court.
Other clashes over face coverings and voting are playing out elsewhere.
In Maryland, a Harford County man was arrested on charges of violating a state emergency order and trespassing after he refused to put on a mask at an early-voting precinct on Monday, the county’s sheriff said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. He filed a lawsuit that was dismissed by a county judge on Friday.
In Wisconsin, a poll worker in La Crosse sued Tony Evers, the state’s Democratic governor, and the city clerk last month after he said that he had been stopped from working during the state’s partisan primary in August because he would not wear a mask. The man said he had a medical condition that exempted him from the state’s mask order.
And in Texas this week, a federal judge blocked Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, from exempting voters and poll workers at election precincts from the requirement to wear masks.
Adam Liptak and Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.
Last year, the office of Bo Duhé, the district attorney for Louisiana’s 16th Judicial Circuit, made an unusual motion to have Lori Landry, the first Black female judge in the district, removed from more than 300 cases. Mr. Duhé’s office argued that Ms. Landry was biased against prosecutors, in part because she accused them of racial bias in their treatment of defendants.
Now Ms. Landry, who left the bench in July, is challenging Mr. Duhé in his re-election bid.
While the coronavirus and battered economy have overtaken issues of race as the focal points in presidential and congressional campaigns, systemic racism and police reform have emerged as dominant themes in a number of local elections. From California to Louisiana to New York, many voters said they saw the races for sheriffs, prosecutors and council representatives as having more consequence to their lives.
Ms. Landry has centered her campaign on the racial disparities she complained about from the bench. “I was never afraid for the safety of my brothers like I’m afraid for the safety of my 21- and 28-year-old nephews,” Ms. Landry, 57, said. “It has shaped me as a person. But it also has pushed me in a race that I might not otherwise be in.”
Mr. Duhé, who is white, did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. But in interviews with other news outlets he has stressed the need to protect victims and provide alternatives to incarceration for defendants.
Hoping to harness the energy at demonstrations amid a national conversation about race, racial-justice organizations pushed massive voter registration drives over the summer. The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of activist groups, hosted a series of virtual town halls and conventions focused on election issues. And local chapters of Black Lives Matter hosted Instagram live chats with candidates to weigh their positions on issues of race and policing.
But there is a racial divide over the importance of race in this election season.
In a Pew Research Center survey that interviewed 7,485 registered voters in July and August, at the height of the unrest and the nation’s reckoning over systemic racism, 85 percent of Black and 66 percent of Hispanic respondents viewed “race and ethnic inequality” as very important to their vote, compared with 43 percent of white voters.
“The stakes, I will say, have never been higher,” said Martin Luther King III, the son of the famed civil rights leader. “I think the vast majority of Black Americans — and really Americans — believe that we’ve got to address the issue of race, systematic racism.”
Will Wright contributed reporting.
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, whose early efforts to lift pandemic restrictions in his state were deemed too hasty even for President Trump, has quarantined himself after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said.
The governor spoke at a mask-optional “Make America Great Again” event on Tuesday in Manchester, Ga.; another speaker at the rally, Representative Drew Ferguson, a Georgia Republican, announced Friday that he had tested positive for the virus.
Mr. Kemp was exposed “within the last 48 hours to an individual who recently tested positive” and will be quarantining, the governor’s office said in a statement Friday. The governor tested negative for the virus, the statement said.
It is not clear if Mr. Ferguson was the infected individual the governor’s statement was referring to, but he did interact with Mr. Kemp more than once this week, according to local press accounts.
Pictures of the pro-Trump event, during which Mr. Kemp touted his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, show dozens of attendees standing close together at an outdoor venue, with many not wearing masks.
The event was intended to counter Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s socially distanced campaign appearance in nearby Warm Springs. No infections have been reported in the wake of the Biden event.
Mr. Trump has mocked his opponent for employing social-distance circles at his speeches, including the one at the spa town in Georgia, which was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s favorite vacation and rehabilitation site.
Mr. Ferguson said he had cold-like symptoms on Thursday night, but he downplayed the danger to people he has encountered since contracting the illness. The LaGrange Daily News reported that Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Kemp had appeared together again Thursday night at an indoor campaign event for a local candidate in Hogansville.
“While the vast majority of my recent schedule has been virtual, we are beginning the process of reaching out to anyone I have seen in recent days,” said Mr. Ferguson, adding that he was well enough to work from home.
The 2020 Cooperative Election Study released preliminary data on Friday, offering a detailed picture of the U.S. electorate with particular insights into the voting habits of small subgroups.
The study, which reached over 70,000 online respondents from late September through this week, will be matched up after the election with official voter data to determine precisely how groups across the country turned out. Set for release in February 2021, the resulting data will be similar to an exit poll, while in some ways offering more precise and detailed information.
It will also be publicly accessible, as the study always is. This year, for the first time, the results are easily accessible via a shinyapps.io portal, allowing everyday users to view and analyze the data.
“People can get online and just peruse it, see what they see in the tables and charts,” Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of government at Harvard University who helps lead the study, said in an interview.
The preliminary release on Friday — using data assembled by YouGov, which utilizes a non-probability sampling method to reach a huge swath of Americans online — offers an opportunity to drill into the voting preferences of demographic groups on the eve of the election. Because of its enormous sample size, the Cooperative Election Study can be particularly useful in analyzing subgroups that are too small for most pre-election polls to accurately capture.
For instance, the study’s results show that Asian-Americans are set to vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr. by more than 2-to-1, nearly matching Hillary Clinton’s success with this group four years ago.
The survey also found that, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic downturn, Mr. Biden is overwhelmingly supported by voters who were currently unemployed, those who said they knew someone who had caught the virus and those who had been laid off within the past year.
This year, for the first time, the survey also tabulated how respondents voted for president four years ago. It found Mr. Biden holding onto the support of 95 percent of voters who had cast ballots for Mrs. Clinton in 2016, while Mr. Trump was retaining 90 percent of his supporters from four years ago. Among voters who had not turned out in 2016, Mr. Biden led by a 2-to-1 margin, although many in this group didn’t express a vote preference.
The study, which was previously known as the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, has been conducted since 2006 by a consortium of university researchers spearheaded by Harvard.
For Joseph R. Biden Jr. to capture Florida, he needs a lot of voters who cast their ballots for President Trump four years ago and eventually came to regret it.
That includes voters like Gerry Miller, a retiree who wrote in his own name for president in 2016 to protest the choice between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton and is appalled by how Mr. Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
“I probably have friends of mine that wouldn’t speak to me again,” said Mr. Miller, 71, who lives with his wife in a beachfront condo in Southwest Florida, a Republican bastion that has helped elect Republican candidates in election after election and was pivotal for Mr. Trump in 2016.
Older voters make up a crucial electoral demographic in Florida, where more than a quarter of the population is over the age of 60. National and state polls show that Mr. Biden has made inroads with them, including with voters age 65 and older, who typically vote Republican.
Especially notable are older Floridians who skipped the last presidential election but have cast ballots this year. New voters tend to be younger. But this year, more Florida voters age 65 and older who did not vote in 2016 have voted than new voters age 30 and younger.
“There are a lot of seniors in Florida who stayed home in 2016,” said Tom Bonier, the chief executive of TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm. “But we’re seeing them come out now.”
But there are signs that Mr. Trump’s base is turning out in a big way again: As of Friday, the turnout in Collier and Lee counties, both of which the president won in 2016, was among the highest in the state, at 70 percent and 61 percent, respectively. (The highest was 75 percent, in Sumter, which includes most of The Villages, a vast retirement community in Central Florida.)
In Lee County, which Mr. Trump won by 20 points, Jim Rosinus, 68, the vice chairman of the local Democratic Party, said he stopped counting the number of volunteers this year after it reached 1,000. In 2016, that number was about 200, he said. The party’s crammed office space features a framed portrait of former President Barack Obama, a cutout of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and $5 sunglasses — “Joe aviators.”
Annie Brown contributed reporting.
Texas, a 2020 jump-ball state once considered a layup for Republicans, is shattering turnout records, with the number of early in-person and mail- ballots now exceeding the total number of votes cast statewide in the 2016 election.
Early-voting turnout has been enormous across the country, spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and one of the most bitterly contested presidential races in history, accelerating a years-in-the-making shift away from Election Day-only voting.
As of Friday morning, more than 83 million votes had been cast, representing more than 60 percent of the total ballots cast four years ago, according to the nonpartisan U.S. Elections Project.
In 11 states, voters have already submitted 80 percent of the ballots cast in those states in 2016, and five of them — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada, along with Texas — are battlegrounds.
Texas, the nation’s second most-populous state, was the second to pass its 2016 threshold. (The first was Hawaii.) The Texas secretary of state’s office reported Friday morning — the last day for early voting in the state — that 9,009,850 people had already voted by mail, dropped ballots in boxes or showed up at polling sites. Four years ago, a record-breaking 8,969,226 Texans voted in the election.
The Texas increase has been fueled by huge turnout in urban, Democratic areas, like Harris County, home to Houston, but rural counties that have traditionally voted Republican have also seen significant jumps in voting.
Polls show a near dead-heat in the state, with a slight edge for President Trump.
Though Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, is making a late swing through the state today, with visits to Houston, McAllen and Fort Worth, the Biden campaign has not put significant time or money into the state, arguing that it is a bad investment: Texas has multiple expensive media markets and is not an essential stop on Mr. Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes.
Early-voting patterns, especially in big cities like San Antonio and Austin, suggest that the underlying dynamics of the race are less like 2016, when Mr. Trump won by 9 percentage points, than the 2018 midterms, when Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, narrowly beat Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat.
“There’s no doubt that it’s a real race,” Mr. Cruz said recently.
The surge in turnout comes despite the fact that Texas’s governor, Greg Abbott, a Trump ally, has limited the number of drop boxes to one per county, an order that greatly advantages low-population counties where Republicans predominate.
The drop-box limit has been offset by big new investments in election infrastructure in Harris County and elsewhere. Harris County officials opened 10 drive-through voting sites across the county, fighting off an effort by the state Republican Party to shut them down. A separate action by the governor, extending the statewide early voting period by six days, has also contributed to the increases.
President Trump’s photo op on Thursday night with Lil Wayne, the multiplatinum rapper, immediately went viral on social media. The backlash came swiftly too, making Lil Wayne the latest in a line of rappers to align themselves, however briefly, with the president’s re-election campaign, only to face criticism from fans and fellow artists.
“Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump,” Lil Wayne posted to his nearly 35 million followers on Twitter after the two posed together in Florida, earning a retweet from the president. “He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done.”
Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done. 🤙🏾 pic.twitter.com/Q9c5k1yMWf— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) October 29, 2020
Lil Wayne, like Ice Cube before him, had cited the president’s Platinum Plan, a vague two-page document rolled out in September that promised to “increase access to capital in Black communities by almost $500 billion” over the next four years.
Charlamagne tha God, a host of the radio show The Breakfast Club, responded in a segment on Friday morning, calling Lil Wayne’s apparent endorsement a distraction. While he noted that Black voters are not monolithic, Charlamagne added, “Trust me when I tell you, Black people are not on the Trump administration’s agenda, nor will we ever be. All of our civil liberties are at risk.”
Earlier this month, the New York rapper 50 Cent also seemed to endorse President Trump in a post on Instagram, claiming Joseph R. Biden Jr. would raise taxes. “I don’t care Trump doesn’t like black people,” 50 Cent wrote. “62% are you out of ya [expletive] mind.” (Instagram marked the post as “missing context” and in need of a fact-check.)
But the rapper soon walked back his support for Mr. Trump, and on Thursday, he reacted negatively to Lil Wayne’s political post.
“oh no,” 50 Cent wrote on Thursday evening. “I WOULD HAVE NEVER TOOK THIS PICTURE.”
Ice Cube, a founding member of N.W.A., who released a song called “Arrest the President” as recently as 2018, faced similar scrutiny after it was announced this month that he had consulted with the Trump administration on the Platinum Plan. He said later that he hoped to work with both sides, and was not endorsing Mr. Trump, adding, “I don’t trust none of them.”
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Trump has called himself the best president for Black Americans since Abraham Lincoln, despite having stoked racial divisions before and since being elected president and repeatedly refusing to denounce white supremacists. His campaign has said that it hoped to slightly improve on its performance with Black voters in 2016, when he earned the support of about 8 percent of Black voters.
While rappers like Cardi B, Offset and Snoop Dogg have expressed support for Mr. Biden, others like Waka Flocka Flame and Lil Pump, who is of Mexican and Cuban descent, have signaled an openness to supporting the president.