President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden Monday traded barbs and exhorted last-minute voters to turn out as they stumped in battleground states on the campaign's final day, while Americans set early voting records.
In Fayetteville, North Carolina, during the first of five planned rallies across four states, the Republican Trump dismissed national opinion polls showing him losing the race and offered apocalyptic warnings about a Biden presidency.
"A vote for Biden is a vote to give control of government over to the globalists, communists, socialists, the wealthy liberal hypocrites who want to silence, censor, cancel and punish you," Trump said.
Democratic US presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Monaca, Pennsylvania. REUTERS
In Cleveland, Ohio, a toss-up state once seen as a lock for Trump, Biden returned to the main themes animating his campaign, vowing to heal the nation's wounds while attacking Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Tomorrow we have an opportunity to put an end to a presidency that's divided this nation," Biden said, calling Trump "weak" and a "disgrace."
The latest polls indicate that Biden leads in nine of the key swing states, Trump in four and there is one statistical tie in Texas. The winner must get at least 270 electoral votes.
Despite national polls showing Biden with a broad lead, the race in swing states is seen as close enough that Trump could still piece together the 270 votes needed to prevail in the state-by-state Electoral College system that determines the winner.
Trump will also travel to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — all states that he won narrowly in 2016 but that polls show could swing back to Biden this year.
Biden, 77, will spend the rest of his day in Pennsylvania after his Ohio speech.
In a year upended by the coronavirus pandemic, early voting has surged to levels never before seen in US elections.
A record-setting 96 mn early votes have been cast either in-person or by mail, according to the US Elections Project.
That unprecedented level of early voting includes 60 mn mail-in ballots that could take days or weeks to be counted in some states, meaning a winner might not be declared in the hours after polls close on Tuesday night.
In some states the mailed-in votes may not be counted for days after today's Election Day, meaning there is a possibility there will be no winner on Tuesday, which might well increase tensions.
In a sign of how volatile the election could be, buildings in several cities were boarded up, including around the White House and in New York City including the iconic Macy's flagship.
The famed shopping destination of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills will be closed down on Tuesday, police said.
Trump will wrap up his campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same place he concluded his 2016 presidential run.
Biden, running mate Kamala Harris and their spouses will spend most of Monday in Pennsylvania.
Trump questioned the integrity of the US election, saying a vote count that stretched past Election Day on Tuesday would be a "terrible thing" and suggesting his lawyers might get involved.
"I don't think it's fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election," Trump told reporters.
Trump has repeatedly said without evidence that mail-in votes are prone to fraud, although election experts say that is rare in US elections.
Mail voting is a long-standing feature of American elections, and about one in four ballots was cast that way in 2016.