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Biden Closes Campaign With Visits To Key Swing States

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

There are 11 days to go before Election Day. Of course, it's now more like an election season. More than 50 million Americans have already cast ballots in early voting according to U.S. Elections Project. And former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to hold onto a lead in the polls. His campaign is blanketing the airwaves with ads, even as Biden isn't hitting the campaign trail as much himself right now. NPR's Scott Detrow covers the Biden campaign and joins us now.

Hi, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good afternoon.

MOSLEY: Is there any sign that last night's debate changed the trajectory of this race?

DETROW: So far, not really - of course, it takes some time to see things like that show up in the polls. And at this point, it would probably just show up on Election Day not any real polls. But certainly neither candidate had a performance like President Trump did in that first debate where he turned off a lot of swing voters with his tone and his attacks. And both candidates actually spelled out their major policy differences, especially when it comes to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And to underscore just how much Joe Biden and his campaign thinks that is really the main issue of the race, he gave a speech today that was really just, again, restating his plans to confront the pandemic, which is something he's been talking about for months.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: I'll immediately put in place a national strategy that'll position our country to finally get ahead of this virus and get back our lives. I'll reach out to every governor in every state, red and blue, to find out what support they need and how much of it they need.

DETROW: And to recap, Biden wants to take a centralized, aggressive approach to this, with the federal government funding and coordinating much more testing, more funding for school districts for safety measures and in dealing with the economic effects of this pandemic. And he wants to try to push to make mask usage universal. And that is, of course, very different than how President Trump has handled this, leaving most decisions up to the states and repeatedly urging the country to open back up.

MOSLEY: Mmm hmm. How is Biden approaching campaigning in this final stretch?

DETROW: You know, one interesting thing is that he has gone back to the more restrained approach of campaigning that we saw for most of the summer. He hasn't traveled to a key state since last weekend. He was, of course, focusing on last night's debate and preparing for it. There was that speech in Wilmington today that we just heard. And then as of now, the only thing on his schedule is a trip to Pennsylvania tomorrow.

Campaigning in person, of course, doesn't tell the whole story. Biden's campaign thinks voters will reward him for not holding risky gatherings. And his message is certainly getting out there. He is spending far more money on ads in the final weeks of the race than Trump because he just has much more money to spend. And, of course, there are also some higher-profile surrogates out there for Biden, like former President Barack Obama and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who have both been campaigning in Pennsylvania, among other states.

MOSLEY: Yeah. You know, a question, though - does this low-key campaign schedule worry any Democrats? I mean, President Trump is basically crisscrossing the country.

DETROW: Yeah. You know, it really doesn't bother that many Democrats. Some other NPR reporters and I called a ton of Democrats all over the country, and almost everyone we talked to feels confident Biden has been able to make his point and that voters have heard and responded to it. And on top of that, they really think - and I think polls do validate this - President Trump's rallies hurt him with swing voters more than anything else. They just don't want to see large maskless crowds or hear the types of attacks and grievances that he often goes on at them.

MOSLEY: You mentioned how many people have already voted, but the Trump campaign thought Biden made a major error by seeming to say toward the end of the debate that he wanted to get rid of fossil fuels. Do Biden allies see this as a mistake?

DETROW: You know, Biden did clarify to reporters afterwards he was talking about ending subsidies for the oil industry. But if you look at his campaign plan, it really would phase out oil and gas drilling over the next couple of decades. He wants to totally overhaul the country and get it more to, you know, wind and solar. The president keeps coming back to this, thinking that it's a way to help him win Pennsylvania, specifically when it comes to the issue of fracking. But it's worth pointing out fracking has slowed down in Pennsylvania over the last few years, and it's a state with a really robust clean energy economy. So this might not be the key issue the president thinks it is.

MOSLEY: NPR's Scott Detrow, who covers the Biden campaign.

Thank you so much.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.