US President Donald Trump has sought to boost his standing in the battleground state of Florida by reaching out to seniors, while rival Joe Biden blasted Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on a tour of the swing state of Michigan.
The two men are focusing their campaigns on the closely-fought states that are expected to determine the winner of the November 3 election. After spending the day in Florida, Trump held a rally in Georgia, traditionally a Republican stronghold.
Early voting is shattering records, with more than 23 million Americans having already cast ballots.
Mr Trump lags in opinion polls and the latest figures from his campaign show he is also behind in fundraising as the race intensifies with 18 days to go before Election Day.
Mr Trump and the Republican National Committee raised some $247.8 million in September, his campaign manager said on Twitter, well behind the $383 million haul of Mr Biden and the Democratic Party.
At an indoor event with a crowd of seniors in Fort Myers, Florida, Trump expressed some uncharacteristic empathy for those who have lost family members to COVID-19.
“My heart breaks for every grieving family that has lost a precious loved one. I feel their anguish. I mourn their loss. I feel their pain,” said Mr Trump, who recently recovered from his own bout with the disease.
Mr Biden has shown among senior voters, many of whom have faulted Mr Trump for his response to the health crisis. Mr Biden has lambasted Mr Trump for often playing down the seriousness of the crisis, and has knocked the administration for seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Mr Trump again asserted that the country was “rounding the turn” on the outbreak, now in its eighth month, even as the number of US cases crossed 8 million on Thursday (local time), rising by 1 million in less than a month.
“He’ll do anything to distract us from focusing on his failures to deal with this virus to protect the nation,” Mr Biden said. “It’s not disappearing, in fact it’s on the rise again. It’s getting worse, as predicted.”
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Mr Trump and Mr Biden in a statistical dead heat in Florida, which is coveted for its 29 electoral votes.
Mr Biden’s campaign said former President Barack Obama would travel to Philadelphia next week to campaign on his former vice president’s behalf.
At a rally in Macon, Georgia, Trump relished the crowd’s chant that Mr Biden’s family should be sent to jail.
“Lock up the Bidens. Lock up Hillary!” Mr Trump said, echoing a theme from his rallies four years ago. The President quipped that he might have to leave the country if he loses.
Mr Biden completed his campaign day with an evening get-out-and-vote rally in Detroit, where he criticised Mr Trump for his actions while sick with COVID-19.
“The longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he gets,” Mr Biden said.
Mr Biden tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday, his campaign said. His running mate Kamala Harris is not travelling for a few days after one of her aides tested positive.
A record 23 million Americans have already voted, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, including 2.2 million in Florida. About 136.6 million people in total voted in the 2016 election.
The candidates returned to the trail after duelling town hall events replaced a presidential debate that was cancelled after Trump contracted the virus.
Mr Biden won the TV ratings battle between the two events, according to Nielsen ratings data.