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Politics Chat: Trump, Biden Make Final Campaign Appearances


Yesterday at a drive-in rally in Flint, Mich., a tag-team pitch from former running mates.


BARACK OBAMA: Joe's not going to call scientists idiots. He's not going to host superspreader events around the country. What Joe will do is get this pandemic under control.

JOE BIDEN: Barack Obama - it's great to be with the president again. It reminds me of what we can be when you have a president of character.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's, of course, former Vice President Joe Biden, this time on the top of the Democratic ticket, speaking to voters in a critical swing state. Polls - and, yes, everyone is feeling suspicious of polls - gives Biden anywhere from a seven- to a 10-point lead in Michigan over President Trump with just days left in this unique election. Joining me now, as she does most Sundays, is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Biden has waged this sort of slow and steady campaign, but it could be that he saved his strongest star power for last. What is his closing argument?

LIASSON: I think his closing argument is that four years of chaos is enough, and who better to help him deliver that message than no-drama Obama? Obama's the most popular person in the Democratic Party, and he's helping Joe Biden do what he wants to do, which is keep the focus on Donald Trump, make this election a referendum on Trump's leadership. And Biden has been getting a lot of help from Trump himself.

Trump says Biden will listen to Dr. Fauci. Biden says, yes, I will. Trump holds mostly unmasked rallies and says he's tired of hearing about COVID, that COVID is a media obsession - just as COVID cases are surging in the very states that the president is holding rallies in. Or he says something totally off-message, like doctors are getting paid for saying people are dying of COVID. So this race is ending the way it began - focused on Donald Trump. That's where Joe Biden wants it, and that seems to be where Donald Trump wants it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mara, throughout this campaign, Trump has been - and let's be real here - erratic. He's tried out so many messages. Can you tick through what he's been saying?

LIASSON: He's tried out a lot of messages. He's warned about what's happening, what would happen if Joe Biden was president - that markets will tank. Biden will get rid of your guns and religion. Suburbs will be ruined because, quote, "low-income" people will move in there. There will be no more law and order. And his list of grievances is very long. He even attacked the Supreme Court yesterday, saying they made some terrible decisions. He was referring to the high court allowing election officials in North Carolina and Pennsylvania count absentee ballots several days after November 3 as long as they were postmarked before the election. And no surprise - he's continued to attack the media. Here's what he said in Bucks County, Penn.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The word fake is not strong enough, especially after what we've seen, where stories, major stories, the biggest story anywhere in the world is absolutely not covered. It's hard to have scandal when you have no coverage.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is an amazing statement on a whole number of levels.

LIASSON: It's hard to have a scandal when you have no coverage. He wasn't talking about the pandemic, which could be...


LIASSON: ...The biggest story in the world. He was talking about a story about Hunter Biden that he and his associates have been pushing, but all major news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, have not found it credible. And it does tell you that President Trump's 2020 playbook is kind of a pale imitation of the 2016 playbook because in the closing moments of that campaign, the Hillary Clinton email story did come back. The media covered it in a big way. Now, four years later, here's Trump trying to do the same thing that got him impeached, trying to get someone - the media, Ukraine, the Department of Justice - to start an investigation into Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, and it's not working.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's move on to election night. We've been primed to not expect clear results because of the various rules states have for counting mail-in ballots on election night. So, Mara, what are you going to be watching for?

LIASSON: I'm going to be watching for states like Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, who will report their results early. If Biden wins one of those - Ohio is very unlikely, but the other three are very competitive - then that means it's pretty much over. If Biden doesn't win one of those states, we're going to wait for results to be counted in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, who are not allowed to start counting mail-in votes until Election Day - so a much longer period.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Earlier, you mentioned rulings on North Carolina and Pennsylvania. And there's a new case we're learning about today from Harris County in Texas, where officials have been letting voters cast their ballots at drive-through sites to keep them safe during the pandemic.

LIASSON: That's right. There's a hearing tomorrow before a federal judge brought by a group of Republicans who want drive-through voting stopped. Harris County is the biggest county in Texas, and it's pretty Democratic. The state supreme court in Texas, made up of Republicans, allowed drive-in voting more than a week ago, but if the Republicans who are bringing this suit prevail, about 127,000 votes that have been cast by drive-through voting will be thrown out. And it shows you how aggressively the Republicans are making barriers to voting central to their strategy. They believe - and the president has said this - that the more people vote, the more it hurts Republicans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you much.

LIASSON: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF KABANJAK'S "FOR THE MOMENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.