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Trump, Biden focus on Pennsylvania as race’s final week dawns

As President Trump and Joe Biden enter the final week of the presidential campaign, COVID-19 is roiling the race again. At least five of Vice President Mike Pence’s staffers have tested positive for the virus, including one deemed a close contact of Pence’s by the CDC. But Pence continues to hold rallies that, like many of Trump’s, violate state health guidelines. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The clock is ticking down, and the candidates' schedules are tightening up tonight in the U.S. presidential race.

    And, as they enter the homestretch, the coronavirus is again roiling the race.

  • President Donald Trump:

    So, thank you very much, Allentown.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    And I like Luzerne County!

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As the candidates enter the final week of the presidential campaign, the COVID-19 pandemic is top of mind.

    The White House has once again been rattled by the virus, after at least five of Vice President Pence's close aides tested positive over the weekend.

    White House doctors said he's considered essential personnel and cleared Mr. Pence to keep up his schedule, stumping today in Minnesota.

  • Vice President Mike Pence:

    Four more years means more jobs in the Iron Range and all over Minnesota. Four more years means more judges who will defend our liberties. Four more years means more support for our police and more support for our troops.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the rally also violated state's COVID restrictions, as many of President Trump's campaign events have done.

    This comes after the U.S. set a new daily record for COVID-19 infections on Friday and nearly matched that high on Saturday, more than 83,000 new cases.

    President Trump continues to assure Americans the virus is under control, and he claims the number of cases is surging because the country has ramped up testing.

    In fact, records show testing accounts for only a small percentage of the rise in cases.

    But, on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made this concession:

  • Mark Meadows:

    We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Jake Tapper:

    Why aren't we going to get control?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For his part, President Trump made three stops today in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Pennsylvania gets it. By the way, we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing. You got to get out there.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    Got to win. Big deal, right?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, this afternoon, Biden paid a brief visit to a site involved in turning out Democratic voters in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    The bottom line is, Donald Trump is the worst possible president, the worst possible person to try to lead us through this pandemic.

    And I don't think he just — he either doesn't have any idea what to do or he just doesn't care.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Joe Biden campaigned in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    Trump ran around saying he represents the forgotten man and woman in his country. I get it. But then he got elected, and he immediately forgot the forgotten man.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I spoke to voters from the area, which was key in helping then candidate Trump take the entire state back in 2016.

    Northeast Pennsylvania experienced the largest regional flip in the state. President Obama's roughly 36,000-vote margin in 2012 switched to an 86,000-vote margin for Mr. Trump.

    Jim Haigh lives outside Allentown, didn't vote for either Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election. This year, he's voting Biden, based on what he's seen from the president.

  • Jim Haigh:

    Over time, I mean, day after day, month after month, it became evident to me that there really was no vision, that there really was no moral compass.

    If Joe Biden was walking down the sidewalk and found somebody's wallet, he would pick it up and make sure it got back to that person immediately, where I think Donald Trump would take that same wallet up, take the cash and credit cards out, and just throw it back on the sidewalk.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Annie Howell is a staunch Trump supporter who lives in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Biden campaigned Saturday.

    Howell praised the president's handling of the pandemic and the economy.

  • Annie Howell:

    I think that he was very proactive and aggressive in his approach. I don't see how he could have done things any better at all. And I'm very in line with him wanting to reopen the economy. People are suffering.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As you know, there's a lot of comment about the president's style, the strong language he uses in going after his critics, people who he disapproves of, the tweeting and so forth.

    Do you have thoughts about all that? Does that matter to you?

  • Annie Howell:

    I see it as an asset. I'm not opposed to it at all. And I think a lot of people think what he's thinking, but he actually has the we will call it bravery to express it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Leah Casner supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and was shocked by the Trump victory.

  • Leah Casner:

    I had hoped our institutions would be strong enough to withstand even a Donald Trump. But I fear that that has proven not to be the case.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And then along comes the pandemic. And you watched, and what did you see?

  • Leah Casner:

    Nothing being done that needed to be done, the refusal to listen to the scientists, the belittling of it. In this area, we have most — many people don't take it seriously.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Casner also praised Mr. Biden for choosing California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

  • Leah Casner:

    I think his selection of Kamala has been very good for my view of him. I really felt that he was not quite as respectful of women and of people of color as he could have been. And this has certainly changed my view of that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Stephen Williams is a Trump supporter from Coopersburg. He says he doesn't always agree with the president's attacks on Joe Biden or his reluctance to wear a mask.

  • Stephen Williams:

    I don't like the way the president demeans people. I can — it's not very presidential. That's not my style. That bothers me.

    But the real reason I'm a Republican is because of abortion. The Democratic Party supports abortion. I'm totally against it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, thinking about the Trump presidency, how have you thought of it? What's your impression been?

  • Stephen Williams:

    I think he's kept a lot of his promises, most of them, actually. I have been pleased with the economy, with the sovereign borders, with relations with China and other countries, the trade deals. I have been very pleased with what he's done so far.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    With eight days left until the election, early voting has already soared to record highs. More than 60 million people have cast their ballots. That's more than the total who voted early or absentee in 2016.

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