Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden is closing out the 2020 presidential race the same way he started it, framing his showdown with President Trump as a “battle for the soul of the nation” and making the case that “character is on the ballot.”
Eighteen months ago, the former vice president entered the race warning that eight more years of Mr. Trump “will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation,” and he’s extolling that same message during the final week of campaigning.
“Time and again throughout our history we have seen charlatans, con men, phony populists who sought to play on our fears, appeal to our worst appetites, and pick at the oldest scabs we have for their own political gain,” Mr. Biden said during a campaign Tuesday in Georgia. “Pope Francis warns us against this phony populism that appeals to ‘the basest and the most selfish instincts.’”
Mr. Biden said by contrast he is running to “unite this nation and to heal this nation.”
“God and history have called us to this moment and this mission,” he said. “With our voices and our votes we must free us from the forces of darkness, the forces of division and the forces of yesterday, and the forces that pull us apart hold us down, and hold us back.”
Mr. Biden and the Democrats are making Mr. Trump play defense in Georgia.
His late-in-the-game visit shows the Biden camp and his allies feel he is within striking distance of carrying the reliably red state for the first time since 1992 when Bill Clinton emerged victoriously.
Mr. Biden’s message, according to the polls, is registering with those voters who have soured on the unconventional and combative approach to politics that has defined much of Mr. Trump’s first term in office and made him so popular among his followers.
Compared to four years ago, Mr. Biden lead has been more stable than Hillary Clinton and there are far fewer undecided and third-party voters.
In Georgia, the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden running neck-and-neck.
David Johnson, a Georgia-based GOP strategist, said Mr. Biden has been “very smart” to stick with the same basic message throughout the campaign.
“He realizes this is a referendum on Trump — and when I say a referendum on Trump, it is not Trump’s policies, it is Trump’s personality,” Mr. Johnson said. “If you took away Trump from the race and put a generic Republican with Trump’s policies in, it wouldn’t even be a race. The Republican would be beating Biden.”
“The problem is that it all comes down to Trump’s personality,” he said. “That is what is driving voters to Biden right now, and Biden’s people know that.”
That perhaps explains why Mr. Biden has kept a relatively thin schedule and is signaling he has no problem with Mr. Trump soaking up most of the attention over the homestretch of the race.
Mr. Trump has embraced the limelight, racing between the battleground states as part of last push to energize voters and remind them that he has — and will continue to — be a battering ram against the status quo in Washington.
The Republican held three rallies Monday in Pennsylvania and was following that up Tuesday with three more stops in Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Mr. Biden, meanwhile, was slated to be in Georgia, where he tried to put Mr. Trump on his heels by dumping $5.6 million in ads over the closing month of the campaign, according to advertising analytics.
Mr. Trump has spent $4.4 million on ads over the same period of time. The Trump Victory Pac, a joint venture with the Republican National Committee, also has spent nearly $1.3 million.
The Biden campaign released a series of new ads Tuesday, including a national ad in which Mr. Biden delivers his final plea.
“This is our opportunity to leave the dark angry politics of the past four years behind us — to choose hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction,” Mr. Biden says in a new national television ad that began running Tuesday. “I believe it is time to unite the country and come together as a nation, but I can’t do it without you so I am asking for your vote.”
Mr. Johnson said he sees the contest in Georgia as a jump ball.
“We are seeing a surge in Black female voters and they vote heavily Democrat,” he said. “The rural areas, however, are super strong for Trump and enthusiastically so. I think right now it is anybody’s call.”