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Democrats, GOP make urgent final pitches as election season wraps

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                                Voters stand in line waiting to cast their early ballots at the City-County Building, today, in Indianapolis.


    Voters stand in line waiting to cast their early ballots at the City-County Building, today, in Indianapolis.

COATESVILLE, Pa. >> An election year weighted by economic turmoil, elimination of federal abortion rights and broad concerns about the future of democracy concluded with a final full day of campaigning today by leaders of both parties urgently appealing to their supporters.

President Joe Biden was holding a rally this evening in Maryland, where Democrats have one of their best opportunities to reclaim a Republican-held governor’s seat. That was consistent with Biden’s late-campaign strategy of sticking largely to his party’s strongholds rather than stumping in more competitive territory, where control of Congress may ultimately be decided.

Tuesday’s outcomes will have a powerful impact on the final two years of Biden’s presidency, shaping policy on everything from government spending to military support for Ukraine. In the first national election since the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, the final days of the campaign focused on fundamental questions about the nation’s political values.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was holding his final rally of the campaign in Ohio. That state holds special meaning for the former president as he readies another run for the White House because it was one of the first places where he was able to prove his enduring power among Republican voters two years ago. Trump’s backing of JD Vance was crucial in helping the author and venture capitalist — and onetime Trump critic — secure the GOP’s nomination for a Senate seat.

Control of the Senate could come down to a handful of crucial states. Besides Ohio, those include Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is locked in a close race against Republican celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz.

“This is one of the most important races in America,” Fetterman told a crowd of about 100 today outside a union hall near a steel plate mill in Coatesville, about 40 miles west of Philadelphia. “Dr. Oz has spent over $27 million of his own money. But this seat isn’t for sale.”

Fetterman, who himself lives across the street from a steel mill, was introduced by Bernie Hall, the top steelworkers union official in Pennsylvania,. Hall acknowledged that some steelworkers vote Republican, despite the union’s regular endorsements of Democrats at the top of tickets.

“But they’ll come home for Fetterman because he relates really well to blue-collar workers,” Hall said.

In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who was in a nail-bitter with Republican Herschel Walker, tried today to cast himself as pragmatic and moderate — capable of succeeding in Washington even if the GOP has more power. Campaigning in Macon, Warnock promised to “do whatever I need to do and work with whomever I need to work with in order to get good things done.”

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, whose purchase of Twitter has roiled the social media world, used that platform today to endorse the GOP, writing, “I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic.” That came too late for more than 41 million Americans who had already cast early ballots.

In an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton airing today on Sharpton’s radio show, Biden warned that his administration’s progress on key issues, including bolstering funding for historically Black colleges and universities and trying to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans, would be at risk if Republicans take Congress.

“If we don’t win, they’re going to wipe out everything we’ve done,” the president said. He also raised concerns about voter intimidation, saying, “America should feel safe going to the polls” and mentioning people outside voting stations with automatic rifles.

“It’s outrageous,” Biden said.

Trump has long falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election only because Democrats cheated and has even begun raising the possibility of election fraud this year. Many Republican candidates across the country continue to adhere to his election denialism, even as federal intelligence agencies are warning of the possibility of political violence from far-right extremists.

Campaigning in New York for Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday, Biden said Republicans were willing to condone last year’s mob attack at the Capitol and that, after the recent assault of Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some in that party made “light of it” or were “making excuses.”

“There’s never been a time in my career where we’ve glorified violence based on a political preference,” the president said.

Meanwhile, at a Sunday Trump rally in Miami, a reference to Pelosi prompted chants of “Lock her up!” — a stark reminder of the nation’s deep divide.

Trump was considering announcing his third presidential run at virtually any hour — perhaps even this evening — but had not made a final decision, according to people familiar with his thinking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly by name.

Many others noted that Trump often focuses on drawing media attention and they saw the latest tease as aimed at generating excitement for his last rally. Trump won Ohio by 8 points in both 2016 and 2020.

Trump has long been eager to announce his intentions and increasingly explicit as he’s teased his plans. “I will probably have to do it again but stay tuned,” he said Sunday night.

Republican officials and some people in Trump’s orbit have urged him to wait until after the midterms to avoid turning the election into a referendum on him while shielding him from blame should Republicans — especially candidates he endorsed — not do as well as expected. But even people who had pushed for waiting now say those concerns are moot given that Election Day is here.

As Trump mulled shifting the focus to next cycle, Democrats were still hopeful of holding their narrow control of the House and Senate — despite Republican pronouncements that their party was in for a big night.

The GOP says voters will rebuke Democrats amid surging inflation, concerns about crime and pessimism about the direction of the country. History suggests any party in power will suffer significant losses in the midterms.

First lady Jill Biden campaigned today for Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in a part of northern Virginia that Joe Biden carried two years ago. It could be an early indicator of GOP midterm strength should Wexton’s seat flip to her Republican challenger, Hung Cao.

The first lady told about 100 people outside a home in Ashburn, about 30 miles from Washington, that the race could come down to a tiny margin of votes, while, in Congress, a “Republican majority will attack women’s rights and health care.”

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