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It's The Last Day To Vote As 2020 Election Campaign Winds Down

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, it is Election Day, the final day of the 2020 voting season. Millions of people have already cast ballots early, but both campaigns are hoping to see a high turnout at the polls today in person as well. President Trump wrapped up his campaign in the same place he ended his unlikely run in 2016 - Grand Rapids, Mich.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to win the state of - you know what we're going to win. We're going to win this state so easily. We're going to win the state of Michigan so easily. We want to do it just like last time. But let's - give me a little bit more margin than that if you don't mind.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Four more years.

GREENE: Four more years - the chant there in Michigan. Joe Biden, for his part, held his last rally of the night in the city of Pittsburgh.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: The power to change this country is in your hands and your hands.

(CHEERING)

BIDEN: I don't care how hard Donald Trump tries; there's nothing - nothing - that's going to stop the people from this nation from voting, period.

GREENE: All right. Joining me this morning - Asma Khalid has been covering the Biden campaign and is in Wilmington, Del., and Tamara Keith has been covering the president's campaign. Good morning to both of you. I guess it's going to be a long day.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yes.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: (Laughter) Good morning.

GREENE: Well, Tam, let's start with you. The president has been racing around swing states, keeping up a grueling pace, which he liked to remind people. What stood out to you on this final day?

KEITH: You know, he was a bit nostalgic last night. And the other thing, though, is that even though he's saying he's going to win, he seems to be laying so much groundwork for losing. He is already blaming Pennsylvania, where there has been a lot of mail-in voting and where polls show a close race. The Supreme Court has said that ballots received as late as Friday can be counted as long as they are postmarked by today. That's based on state law.

The president doesn't like that at all. Last night, he tweeted that decision will, quote, "undermine our entire system of laws" and said it would, quote, "induce violence in the streets." Twitter has blocked that tweet from view, warning that it might be misleading. In fact, often we don't know the results on election night. It's pretty normal. And we may not know tonight as well. You'll remember back in 2016, President Trump also said that the election was rigged against him.

So much of what he is doing in the last few days and the last few weeks is, really, running the same play that worked for him in 2016, which is how he ended up in Grand Rapids last night, saying he's a little superstitious and he just had to go back there.

GREENE: Well, Asma, I want to get to Joe Biden. But you've actually spent time in Grand Rapids during the course of the campaign, right? What have voters told you in that city where the president decided to hold his last event?

KHALID: I have, David. And, you know, it was strange to see the president make this final pitch in Grand Rapids. You know, sure, I hear what Tam's saying about the nostalgia, but it's not exactly a place where the president could be courting his base. Kent County, which is where Grand Rapids is, has been trending more toward Democrats. The president won it in 2016, but notably by a slimmer margin than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

And, you know, if you talk about a place where we've seen suburban voters who have been leaving the president and shifting more towards Joe Biden, that place is a place like Grand Rapids. You know, the Democratic county chairman told me the other week that he feels more confident Biden has a shot at winning that region than he did earlier this summer, just based on, you know, volunteers, lawn signs, et cetera.

GREENE: Well, you know, a lot of people voted early, but there are a lot of votes that the campaigns are hoping to turn out today on Election Day itself. Let me start with you, Tam, in terms of what the Trump campaign is doing to get the vote out.

KEITH: Yeah, this is particularly important for the Trump campaign because President Trump spent so much time discouraging mail-in voters and encouraging people to vote in person, and particularly his people have listened. There has been a lot of early voting, but Republicans say Democrats haven't done as well at banking those early votes as they need to. The Republicans are saying that Democrats have a - that the Republicans are saying that they have a historically large army, 2.5 million volunteers, and that there will be a red wave of votes that show up today.

But, you know, it's a risky bet. But it's one that President Trump and his campaign have a lot of confidence in because they say they have this amazing data operation, and their voter models say that they're going to win.

GREENE: Asma?

KHALID: And for Democrats - yeah - you know, Democrats, I will say that the get-out-the-vote effort this cycle has looked really different than it has in the past. They have not been knocking on as many doors. Essentially, everything has been digital. The campaign did say that it contacted over 53 million people this past weekend, but a lot of that was over text and phone.

You know, one last point, though, I do want to mention is, I think, part of the effort today from Democrats is not just about GOTV, get out the vote; it's also about voter protection. You know, the president has tried to poke a lot of holes in the legitimacy of this election. The Biden campaign says it's assembled the biggest effort in history to assist voters and monitor complaints. They say they have twice as many staff members doing that work on the ground than they did in 2016, and that doesn't include volunteers who are also manning these voter hotlines in essentially every key state, in both English and Spanish.

GREENE: Asma, I got to ask you - Joe Biden added a stop last minute in Cleveland yesterday. I mean, we talk about states like Florida, Pennsylvania being crucial. Do Democrats think they have a chance at getting Ohio back?

KHALID: You know, that is a tough question to answer. And in part, David, you know, President Trump won the state by eight points four years ago. But I do think that it speaks to this multipronged strategy that Democrats seem to be running, where they are both trying to shore up their base, shore up support in states that they think they have a good shot in, but also put Donald Trump on defense in places like Ohio or Georgia.

You know, I will say that a lot of the vote, as we've pointed out many times, has already been cast. You know, more than 50% of the total votes expected to be cast have already been cast. So a lot of the GOTV effort and where the candidates are going this cycle feels different because they're focused on really boosting Election Day turnout. And for Democrats, I think that means running up the margins in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, so that there aren't really questions about the legitimacy of this election.

GREENE: I mean, we're all watching the presidential race, but we should say, I mean, control of the Senate might be at stake today as well. Can you both talk to me about what you're watching and whether the Democrats have a chance to win the majority?

KEITH: Yeah, there are more than a dozen races that we're watching, and Democrats do have a good shot at taking control of the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even admitted last week that it was a 50-50 proposition. Republicans are playing defense in more places than Democrats are this time. And the most vulnerable Republicans that we have our eyes on tonight are Cory Gardner from Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine, Arizona's Martha McSally. A lot of these races are tight. And with the narrow margin, it's possible that we might not know who will control the Senate tonight or even for a while.

KHALID: And the state that I'm really interested in watching is Georgia. There you've got both Senate seats on the ballot. One is a special election. And if no candidate gets 50% of the vote, one or both of those races could go to a runoff. And, you know, it's part of why we've seen folks like Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and even Joe Biden himself campaigning in the state of Georgia in recent days. It's not just, they say, about whether or not Biden can win the presidency; it's about, they feel, ensuring, giving Democrats the control of the Senate so that Biden could be able to get his agenda passed legislatively.

GREENE: Just in a few seconds, can you each tell me what the candidates are going to be up to on Election Day? Asma?

KHALID: Sure. Joe Biden's going to be in Pennsylvania. He'll visit his birthplace of Scranton, as well as Philadelphia, and then onwards here to Wilmington, where I am.

GREENE: Tam?

KEITH: Yeah, and - yeah, President Trump is going to visit his campaign headquarters in northern Virginia, and then he will be at the White House. There - we don't have a lot of details, but he's expected to have a large in-person event.

GREENE: White House correspondent Tamara Keith, political correspondent Asma Khalid - part of a team tirelessly covering a campaign in the middle of a pandemic. Thank you both so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.