US President Donald Trump has hinted that he might fire Dr Anthony Fauci while Democratic rival Joe Biden has promised that the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases will stay on in his administration.
A thousands-strong crowd at Mr Trump’s campaign rally in Florida broke out into a chant of ‘fire Fauci’ after the President expressed frustration that the coronavirus is still dominating headlines.
With less than 24 hours to go before election day, Mr Trump is furiously trying to drum up support in critical areas where he is lagging in the polls.
The presidents is expected to visit four states and hold five rallies.
“A vote for me and the republican party is a vote for the American dream,” he told supporters.
As well as promising to make the US a “manufacturing superpower”, Mr Trump has so far spent his final day again taking aim at those who have expressed concern about the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.
In Florida, he instructed his supporters to not “tell anybody but let me wait until a little bit after the election”, suggesting he might fire Dr Fauci, the highly respected member of his coronavirus task force.
Pandering to his supporters, he said he appreciated their “advice” and claimed the doctor had been “wrong a lot”.
His comments come days after Dr Facui told The Washington Post “we’re in for a whole lot of hurt” after taking issue with Mr Trump’s repeated assertions that the US fight against the virus was “rounding the turn”.
During his own campaign stop, in Ohio, Mr Biden criticised Mr Trump for raising the possibility that he might fire one of the most popular health experts in the US.
“I’ve got a better idea,” Mr Biden said. “Elect me and I’m going to hire Dr Fauci. And we’re going to fire Donald Trump.”
He earlier tweeted, “We need a president who actually listens to experts like Dr. Fauci”.
Mr Trump didn’t stop at Dr Fauci.
In North Carolina, he referred to his foes as “psycho”, “corrupt” and “criminals”.
He took aim at Twitter by referring to its trending topics as “boring” and focusing on him instead of “scandals” and “affairs”.
The president also complained about freedom of the press, saying “we have suppression by the press. That’s what it is”.
“You can’t have a scandal if nobody writes about it,” Mr Trump said, referring to his accusations of corruption against Mr Biden’s youngest son, Hunter.
“So go out and vote – unless you’re going to vote for somebody other than me, in which case, sit it out,” Mr Trump said in his closing remarks.
Meanwhile, Mr Biden told his supporters that “the power to change the country is in your hands”.
“Tomorrow we have an opportunity to put an end to a presidency that’s divided this nation. Tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that has failed to protect this nation. And tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that’s fanned the flames of hate all across this country.”
He concluded his final campaign event in Ohio by stating that “the character of America is literally on the ballot”.
“It’s time to take back our democracy,” he said.
Retailers, especially in New York City, have begun boarding up shop windows in preparation for election day, which is anticipated to spark violence and protests.
Curtis Sliwa, the founder of a citizen-led crime prevention organisation called Guardian Angels, said locals were preparing in anticipation “that one side or the other may not be happy with the outcome” on November 3 (US time).
“But more importantly there are looters and thugs with no political identity who may take advantage of the situation and riot and loot again,” he told WABC-TV.
Police, too, have concerns – and evidence is mounting that they have every reason to worry about threatening behaviour.
At the weekend, a convoy flying flags supporting Mr Trump’s re-election surrounded a tour bus carrying campaign staff for Mr Biden on a Texas highway.
Video footage showed a group of pickup trucks and SUVs bearing pro-Trump flags surrounding the Biden campaign bus as it travelled north along Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin.
The Biden campaign said the Trump caravan tried to force the bus to slow down and to run it off the road.
The incident was captured on video that was retweeted by Mr Trump on Sunday with the message, “I LOVE TEXAS!”
It prompted the Biden campaign to cancel at least two of its Texas events as Democrats accused the president of encouraging supporters to engage in acts of intimidation.
The New York City Police Department issued a warning to the merchants located in many areas of the city to prepare as Election Day approaches.
Sections of the city that were affected by looting after the police killing of George Floyd are particularly vulnerable.
Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the New York Times “we are very concerned about groups lurking and trying to intimidate voters in particular communities”.
“We want voters to know these sporadic incidents are being addressed, and we want them to be able to cast their ballot,” she said.