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Trump seeks campaign boost as Biden leads in battleground Pennsylvania

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An inflatable figure of President Donald Trump stands on porch in the Northampton County, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

US President Donald Trump is campaigning in the key state of Pennsylvania, where his Democratic challenger Joe Biden is holding a lead two weeks before Election Day.

Trump is due to hold a rally in Erie, in the state’s northwest corner, on Tuesday night.

First lady Melania will join the president in her first public appearance since recovering from the coronavirus.

The president, who won a close race in the crucial state in 2016, has now gained some ground against Biden there, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, which showed the Democrat challenger leading by 49% to 45%, slightly narrower than a week earlier.

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 people across the US and thrown millions of Americans out of work, has taken a heavy toll on his re-election prospects.

His campaign rally in Pennsylvania will be held one day after the Supreme Court handed a major defeat to the Republicans on Monday by allowing extra time for mail-in voting in the state.

Pennsylvania, with 20 Electoral College votes, is now allowed to count mail ballots received up to three days after the November 3 election as the Supreme Court has ejected the Republican effort to reject all those that arrive after Election Day.

The state’s Republicans had requested the top court to pause a September ruling from the state’s Supreme Court, who say a Pennsylvania statute requires mail ballots to be received by 8 pm ET on Election Day.

The ruling is a major win for Democrats who have been pushing to expand access to voting amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Pennsylvania’s attorney general Josh Shapiro said on Monday that the ruling “makes clear our law will stand despite repeated attacks.”

“With nearly a million votes already cast in Pennsylvania, we support the Court’s decision not to meddle in our already-working system.”

Almost 900,000 voters in Pennsylvania have already returned their ballots, according to state data.

In Pennsylvania, Trump’s campaign has also failed to prevent officials from setting up ballot drop boxes, a popular option in many other states.

The law allows party volunteers to collect multiple ballots and deliver them to election officials.

According to the University of Florida’s US Elections Project, more than 30 million American voters have already cast their ballots across the nation — more than one-fifth of the total vote in the last presidential contest four years ago.

Trump has repeatedly described absentee voting as unreliable, saying it would lead to mass voter fraud.

Experts, however, say mail-in ballots is as secure as any other method.

Early in-person voting, which is underway in many states, will also begin in Wisconsin, Utah and Hawaii on Tuesday.

Trump also trails Biden in Wisconsin and Michigan, the two other Rust Belt states that he narrowly carried four years ago, according to Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The president also trails in Arizona, where he called Biden “a criminal” during a former campaign.

Trump, Biden to be muted at times in final debate to avoid chaos

Biden will meet Trump during Thursday’s final presidential debate, during which the two will get the silent treatment.

This time, Trump and Biden’s microphones will be muted during portions of the face-off.

The decision was made by the Commission on Presidential Debates after the first face-off descended to chaos and became “an embarrassment” for the nation.

Back then, the commission pledged to curtail the chaos that ensued the debate, when Trump frequently interrupted Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News.

The debate’s rules remain the same, though, as each candidate will be allotted two minutes to initially answer the moderator’s questions.

The organizers, however, said that each candidate’s audio feed would be turned off while his rival had the floor.

After the candidates finish their two-minute replies, they will be allowed to freely engage with one another for the remainder of the segment, according to the commission.

Both candidates were notified of the change late Monday, with Trump raising objections to the plans.

The president described the move as “unfair,” but said that he would participate.

The commission already canceled the second debate, originally scheduled for mid-October after Trump objected to new plans making the meeting virtual over his health concerns.

Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.

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