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On The Campaign Trail: Unity And Inconsistency

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to begin today's program with an update on what's happening on the campaign trail. About 28 million people have already cast their ballots across the country - that according to the U.S. Elections Project. And, of course, it's a little over two weeks until Election Day marks the end of voting. President Trump is on the West Coast while his opponent, Joe Biden, is in North Carolina. Traveling with the Democratic nominee is NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow, who joins us from Durham.

Hey, Scott. welcome.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: It is nice to talk to you from the campaign trail. Hello.

MARTIN: Well, Joe Biden has had a consistent national polling lead. He's led in most North Carolina surveys, too, but much more narrowly. So, Scott, what was his message there today?

DETROW: You heard him stick to what's become a real closing message for Joe Biden, for as progressive as his platform is - he's certainly moved to the left compared to most of his career - he's really centering on this unifying message that has as much to do with the tone and style of how he would govern as what he wants to do. Here he is speaking over the beeping horns of another drive-in rally.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JOE BIDEN: Folks, I'm running as a proud Democrat. But I will govern as an American president.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS HONKING)

BIDEN: No red states, no blue states - just the United States.

DETROW: So you can hear a clear play here to voters who might just be tired of President Trump's governing style and campaigning style. Biden also had a message for his Democratic base, urging them to continue the momentum of early voting. But talking to Democrats at this rally, that is certainly not a problem. Every Democrat here in North Carolina remembers 2016, where the party thought the early vote totals showed that they could win the state. And, of course, President Trump ended up carrying North Carolina.

MARTIN: Let's talk about the president now. The president is on the other side of the country with rallies tonight in Carson City, Nev., and then tomorrow in Arizona. What's been the focus of the president's efforts in recent days?

DETROW: So he's going all over the country right now. In terms of messaging, it's pretty inconsistent, and often grievances and base issues are taking precedence over broader economic themes. Yesterday, President Trump was in Michigan. He criticized the state's governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, and the crowd there broke into lock her up chants, reflecting 2016.

And, of course, this is in the wake of a foiled kidnapping plot. According to the FBI, a militia was planning on trying to kidnap Governor Whitmer. When that happened, President Trump attacked her on Twitter. And now Whitmer is harshly criticizing the president for that rally, saying he is once again inciting violence.

MARTIN: So, Scott, what are you looking for in the final two weeks? What are you keeping your eyes on?

DETROW: The Biden campaign really wants to keep this sense of momentum going - the sense of a building lead, not a shrinking lead. But one thing they're going to do to try to show this sense of a building momentum is play one of the final cards they have, and that's bringing former President Barack Obama out onto the campaign trail for the first time. He'll be speaking in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

The next day is also a big factor. That's the second and final presidential debate. And really, that's President Trump's last chance to change the trajectory of this race. But even if he does have the best possible night, I think it's going to count for less than what other debates count for, given the fact that, one, millions and millions of people have already voted, and two, this is a very-close-to-Election Day final debate. It hasn't been this close in a very long time.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Scott Detrow in Durham, N.C., traveling at the moment with the Biden campaign.

Scott Detrow, thank you so much.

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

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