By STEVE PEOPLES, WILL WEISSERT and KEVIN FREKING
CLEVELAND (AP) — Fresh off their chaotic debate-stage clash, President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden targeted voters across the Midwest on Wednesday, hitting hard at their contrasting messages as millions of voters cast early ballots.
Biden headed out on his most aggressive day on the campaign trail all year, with eight stops planned for a train tour that began mid-morning in Cleveland and was scheduled to end Wednesday night in western Pennsylvania. Trump was to address voters and donors in Minnesota late in the day.
Both men were active on social media, too, hoping to use the turbulent debate to score political points.
“He lies to you,” Biden said of Trump at an outdoor event along https://apnews.com/hub/election-2020 side the Cleveland train station. “He’s too weak to beat the pandemic.”
While some Republicans feared that Trump’s debate performance was too aggressive, he wasted no time in attacking moderator Christ Wallace as well as Biden Wednesday morning.
“Chris had a tough night,” Trump tweeted. “Two on one was not surprising, but fun.”
The president added a darker swipe at Biden in a subsequent tweet: “He will destroy our Country!”
The first of three scheduled debates between Trump and Biden deteriorated into bitter taunts and chaos the night before as the Republican president repeatedly interrupted his Democratic rival with angry — and personal — jabs that overshadowed any substantive discussion of the crises threatening the nation.
Trump refused to condemn white supremacists who have supported him, telling one such group known as Proud Boys to “stand back, stand by.” There were also heated clashes over the president’s handling of the pandemic, the integrity of the election and how the Supreme Court will shape the future of the nation’s health care.
The two men frequently talked over each other with Trump interrupting, nearly shouting, so often that Biden eventually snapped at him, “Will you shut up, man?”
Trump’s brash posture may have appealed to his most passionate supporters, but it was unclear whether the embattled incumbent helped expand his coalition or won over any persuadable voters, particularly white, educated women and independents who have been turned off in part by the same tone and tenor the president displayed on the debate stage.
With just five weeks until Election Day and voting already underway in several key states, Biden holds a lead in national polls and in many battlegrounds. Polling has been remarkably stable for months, despite the historic crises that have battered the country this year, including the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and a reckoning over race and police.
Increasingly, the candidates have trained their attention on working-class voters in the Midwest, a group that helped give Trump his victory four years ago and will again play a critical role this fall.
Biden opened his day by delivering a speech alongside the rails of Cleveland’s train station. The former vice president’s campaign stenciled a map of the train journey he’s making with wife, Jill, on a board behind the lectern where he spoke.
Aboard the six-car train: only the Bidens, their campaign staff and a handful of journalists. The train features a Biden-Harris logo and a sign urging supporters to text “Train” to the campaign to show their support.
Biden spent decades commuting between his home in Delaware and Washington while serving in the Senate. He announced his 1988 campaign for president, the first of his multiple runs, at the station in Wilmington, Delaware, posing with his family off the back of the train. That won’t be possible this time since Amtrak no longer produces cabooses, the Biden campaign said.
Trump, meanwhile, was scheduled to attend an afternoon fundraiser in Shorewood, Minnesota, a suburb to the west of Minneapolis, before appearing at an evening campaign rally in Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior.
While Trump carried Ohio and Pennsylvania four years ago, he narrowly lost Minnesota, one of the few states he hopes to flip from red to blue this fall. The president’s path to success likely depends on finding more votes in rural, conservative areas and limiting his losses in the state’s urban and suburban areas.
It’s a strategy Trump’s campaign is trying to execute in other states and it depends on a robust field operation with the money and time to track down infrequent or first-time voters. That could be a tall order since Minnesota already has one of the nation’s highest voter turnout rates.
Peoples reported from New York.
AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020