CARSON CITY, Nev. — U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden went on offence Sunday, as both campaigned in states they are trying to flip during the Nov. 3 election that is just over two weeks away.
Trump began his day in Nevada, making a rare visit to church before a fundraiser and an evening rally in Carson City. Once considered a battleground, Nevada has not swung for a Republican presidential contender since 2004.
The rally drew thousands of supporters who sat elbow to elbow, cheering Trump and booing Biden and the press. The vast majority wore no masks to guard against the coronavirus, though cases in the state are on the rise, with more than 1,000 new infections reported Saturday. The president, as he often does, warned that a Biden election would lead to further lockdowns and at one point appeared to mock Biden for saying he would listen to scientists.
“He’ll listen to the scientists. If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression,” Trump said.
Biden, a practicing Catholic, attended Mass in Delaware before campaigning in North Carolina, where a Democrat has not won in a presidential race since Barack Obama in 2008.
Both candidates are trying to make inroads in states that could help secure a path to victory, but the dynamics of the race are remarkably stable. Biden enjoys a significant advantage in national polls, while carrying a smaller edge in battleground surveys.
Earlier in the day, Trump sat in the front row at the nondenominational International Church of Las Vegas as the senior associate pastor, Denise Goulet, said God told her early that morning that the president would secure a second term.
“At 4:30, the Lord said to me, `I am going to give your president a second win,”’ she said, telling Trump, “you will be the president again.”
Trump spoke briefly, saying “I love going to churches” and that it was “a great honour” to attend the service. He dropped a wad of $20 bills in the collection plate before leaving.
The message was far different in both style and substance later in the day, when Biden attended a virtual discussion with African American faith leaders from around the country.
Biden held up a rosary, which he said he carries in his pocket every day, and described it as “what the Irish call a prisoner’s rosary” since it was small enough to be smuggled into prisons.
“I happen to be a Roman Catholic,” Biden said. “I don’t pray for God to protect me. I pray to God to give me strength to see what other people are dealing with.”
Earlier, at a drive-in rally in Durham, North Carolina, Biden focused heavily on promoting criminal justice changes to combat institutional racism and promised to help build wealth in the Black community.
He noted that Trump had said at one of his rallies that the country had turned the corner on the pandemic.
“As my grandfather would say, this guy’s gone around the bend if he thinks we’ve turned the corner. Turning the corner? Things are getting worse,” Biden said.
In addition to public polling that indicates Biden has an edge, the former vice-president enjoys another considerable advantage over Trump: money.
Trump raked in $12 million during a fundraiser Sunday afternoon at the Newport Beach home of top GOP donor and tech mogul Palmer Luckey, which also featured a performance by the Beach Boys.
But over the past four months, Biden has raised over $1 billion, a massive amount of money that has eclipsed Trump’s once-overwhelming cash advantage.
That’s become apparent in advertising, where Biden and his Democratic allies are on pace to spend twice as much as Trump and the Republicans in the closing days of the race, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.
Though Trump has pulled back from advertising in Midwestern states that secured his 2016 win, he’s invested heavily elsewhere, including North Carolina, where he is on pace to slightly outspend Biden in the days ahead.
In Nevada, which Trump came close to winning in 2016, Democrats are set to outspend Trump in the closing days by a more than 3-to-1 ratio.
Trump’s visit to the state is part of an aggressive schedule of campaign events, where he has leaned heavily into fear tactics.
Trump’s Carson City rally was held at an airport with a golden scrub brush-covered hill providing a dramatic backdrop. He relived fond moments from his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, revisited his long-running feud with NFL players and went on an extended rant about water management policy, which he blamed for people having to “flush their toilet 15 times.”
He also added to his litany of hyperbolic attacks against Biden, claiming that, if Biden were elected, he would mandate new lockdown measures that would make Carson City “a ghost town” and “the Christmas season will be cancelled.”
As he surveyed his crowd, Trump expressed disbelief that he could possibly be tied (in fact losing, according to public polls) to Biden in the state.
“How the hell can we be tied?” he asked. “What’s going on? … We get these massive crowds. He gets nobody…. It doesn’t make sense!” Biden has held very small and virtual events in recent months because of the ongoing pandemic.
Biden started his day with Mass in Delaware at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine, as he does nearly every week. He and his wife, Jill, entered wearing dark-colored face masks. She carried a bunch of flowers that including pink roses.
The church is a few minutes’ drive from Biden’s home. Biden’s son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, is buried in the cemetery on its grounds. Joe and Jill Biden visited the grave after the service.
Trump attends church far less often but has drawn strong support from white Evangelical leaders and frequently hosts groups of pastors at the White House. Trump often goes to the Church of Bethesda-By-The Sea near Mar-a-Lago in Florida for major holidays, including Easter, and he attended a Christmas Eve service last year at Family Church in West Palm Beach before the onset of the pandemic.
If elected, Biden would be only the second Roman Catholic president in U.S. history and first since John F. Kennedy. The former vice-president speaks frequently about his faith and its importance in his life.
— Slodysko reported from Washington and Weissert from Durham, North Carolina. Associated Press Writer Elana Schor in Washington contributed to this report.