Calling Joe Biden his "brother," former US President Barack Obama has accused Donald Trump of failing to take the coronavirus pandemic and the presidency seriously as Democrats leaned on America's first Black president to energise Black voters in Michigan on the final weekend of the 2020 campaign.
Obama and Biden, held drive-in rallies in Flint and Detroit, predominantly Black cities where strong turnout will be essential to swing the long-time Democratic state to Biden's column after Trump won it in 2016. Biden has had a consistent lead in the national polls and has also had an advantage in most battleground states, including Michigan.
As of Saturday morning, nearly 90 million voters had already cast ballots nationwide, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Tens of millions more will vote by the time polls close on Tuesday night.
Obama said he initially hoped "for the country's sake" that Trump "might take the job seriously, by he never did”.
The former president, addressing voters in dozens of cars in a Flint high school parking lot, seized on Trump's continued focus on the size of his campaign crowds. "Did no one come to his birthday party when he was a kid? Was he traumatized?" Obama mocked. "The country's going through a pandemic. That's not what you're supposed to be worrying about,” Obama added.
Trump made an aggressive play for pivotal Pennsylvania, focusing largely on his white, working-class base. His first of four scheduled stops in Pennsylvania was in a small-town Bucks County on the eastern edge of the state. Repeating what has become a consistent part of his closing message, Trump raised concerns about election fraud, pointing specifically at Philadelphia, a city whose large African American population is key to Biden's fate in the state. The president also railed against a recent Supreme Court ruling that will allow Pennsylvania to count mail ballots received as many as three days after polls close. The extra time, Trump alleged without evidence, would allow for fraud and potentially deny him a win in the state. "That was a very disappointing opinion, but I've had many disappointing opinions from the Supreme Court,” Trump had said.
However, several studies, including one commissioned by Trump himself, have failed to uncover any significant examples of election fraud. Good-government advocacy groups are concerned that the president's repeated calls for his supporters to monitor the polls may lead to widespread voter intimidation.
Republicans are betting that Trump can win a second term by driving up turnout among his strongest supporters — white, noncollege-educated men and rural voters — while limiting Biden's advantage with Blacks and Latinos.
Democrats in several swing states worry that voters of colour may not be excited enough to show up at the polling booths.
In Michigan, Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who represents the Flint area, said he had been pressing for a couple of months for Biden or Obama to visit the majority Black city where a water crisis that began in 2014 sickened the city's residents, exposing stark racial inequities.
"The message is important, no question about it. But there's a message implicit in showing up, especially in Flint. This is a community that has felt left behind many, many times and overlooked many, many times," Kildee said.
Biden's campaign announced it was sending Obama to Florida and Georgia on Monday. He is the campaign's most valuable asset to help energize the non-white voters Democrats so badly need to defeat Trump.
The press for Michigan's Black voters comes after voting was down roughly by 15 per cent in Flint and Detroit four years ago — a combined 48,000-plus votes in a state Trump won by about 10,700 votes.
Overall, the Black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6 per cent in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6 per cent four years earlier, according to the Pew Research Center.
Trump isn't ceding Michigan to Biden. He visited Waterford Township, near Detroit, on Friday and held a rally in the state capital, Lansing, this past week, though the surging coronavirus cases are clouding his presidency.
The worst week of the year, in terms of new infections, arrived with Election Day looming around the corner. More than 99,000 Americans reported new infections on Friday, a record high, according to Johns Hopkins University.