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Pa. ends the 2020 campaign at the center of the action as Trump raises specter of ‘violence on the street’

Trump and Biden ended the campaign much the way it started: dashing across Pennsylvania to win every vote possible in the state most likely to pick the winner.

President Donald Trump, left, and Joe Biden on the final day of the campaign.
President Donald Trump, left, and Joe Biden on the final day of the campaign.Read moreAssociated Press

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden barreled Monday toward an unprecedented Election Day, ending the campaign much the way it started: dashing across Pennsylvania to win every vote possible in the state most likely to determine the winner.

Trump, speaking in Northeastern Pennsylvania, continued his brazen effort to tar the integrity of the election, while Biden, campaigning on the other side of the state, continued his plea for national unity and his pledge to stamp out the pandemic.

Later, Trump leveled his most incendiary attack on a peaceful election to date, saying that counting mail ballots that arrive after Election Day, as allowed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, “will induce violence on the streets.”

Vice President Mike Pence and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris also campaigned in the state on the final day before polls open. The election-eve action in all four corners of the state underscored Pennsylvania’s critical importance as the so-called “tipping point” state most likely to deliver the decisive Electoral College votes and determine who wins the White House.

Biden ended the day at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the Steelers' football stadium, where he held a drive-in rally with his wife, Jill Biden, and the musician and actress Lady Gaga.

The former vice president said he chose Western Pennsylvania for his final election eve campaign stop, “because you represent the backbone of this country: hardworking families, asking for nothing but a fair shot.”

To honks and cheers, he said, “It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home.”

Biden will work to turn out voters in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, ending a historic election with appearances in Scranton and Philadelphia.

Appearing at an afternoon airport rally in Luzerne County — not far from Biden’s childhood hometown of Scranton — Trump dismissed polls that have consistently showed him trailing Biden.

“It’s not gonna happen — we’re gonna win," Trump said. "We have some big surprises.”

He repeated his baseless suggestion that Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, would somehow “cheat” and steal the election from him. (County elections officials conduct the counting of votes, not the Wolf administration.)

“We’re all watching you, governor," Trump said. "We have a lot of eyes on the governor and his friends. A couple of other governors out there, too.”

» READ MORE: How to safely vote in person during a pandemic

And he repeated a familiar litany of false claims, including that Pennsylvania remains shut down because of the coronavirus — it’s not — and that Biden has pledged to ban fracking — he hasn’t.

But it was his tweet about “violence on the streets” that cast a renewed cloud over an already bitter and divisive election. His comments, on Twitter and speaking to reporters outside Air Force One in Milwaukee, echoed baseless attacks made in recent days that counting ballots as allowed by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling “allows tremendous cheating.”

His warning of violence, though, went further than before, as he continued to attack the U.S. Supreme Court for allowing the state court ruling to stand for now (the case remains pending before the high court). Twitter soon labeled his post as potential election misinformation and prevented it from being retweeted.

In Philadelphia — a frequent subject of Trump’s election-related ire — local elected officials vowed to fight voter suppression, and a group of people dressed up as drop boxes danced outside City Hall, urging voters to cast their mail ballots.

Harris started the day in Luzerne County before she traveled south through the Lehigh Valley to drum up turnout among Latino voters. She ended her day at the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park, with a drive-in rally with her husband Doug Emhoff and the musician John Legend.

There, Harris called Trump’s handling of the pandemic “the greatest failure of a presidential administration in America’s history."

”The first thing Joe and I will do when we are in the White House is get this virus under control," she said.

Lisa Rhodes, chair of the PA Democratic Black Caucus, came to the ballpark rally with a group of her sorority sisters from AKA, the Black women’s sorority to which Harris belongs.

“All of us are so proud,” she said, clad in an AKA bucket hat. Rhodes, of Overbrook Farms, said Harris represents “all of us — women, Democrats, Black Americans, people from marginalized communities. … She is the woman that represents all Americans.”

At a small rally in the parking lot of a Beaver County community college earlier in the day, Biden told cheering steamfitters, ironworkers, and firefighters, “The only way we can deal with corporate greed in America is union power. You’re the only ones who can keep the barbarians on the other side of the gate.”

“From the very beginning of my career, I found myself in a situation where I relied on labor,” Biden added. “And I hope I’ve demonstrated that labor can rely on me.”

» READ MORE: How we’re reporting election results data

Four years after Trump’s razor-thin victory in Pennsylvania helped him win the presidency, the state is being closely watched in the final hours. A smaller proportion of voters have cast ballots early than in other battleground states, making Election Day here particularly high stakes.

Still, more than two million Pennsylvanians have already returned mail ballots. Democrats, who are voting by mail in disproportionately greater numbers, have returned 66% of those ballots, compared with 23% for Republicans.

It’s widely expected that counting votes and determining a winner will take longer than usual, perhaps several days, because of the large number of voters using mail ballots. Mail ballots take longer to process — that’s normal, not a sign of fraud. What’s unusual is the sheer volume of them being used.

Over the weekend, while Biden implored Pennsylvanians to show up in record numbers, Trump cast baseless doubts on the integrity of the election. He even signaled he would try to discredit legitimate votes before they are counted.

“We should know the result of the election on Nov. 3. The evening of Nov. 3,” Trump said at a rally Sunday in Iowa. “That’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it should be.”

Later, in North Carolina, he said, “As soon as the election is over, we’re going in with our lawyers.”

Pennsylvania’s top elections official said Monday that the state “will do everything in our power” to fight any false claims of victory or other misinformation and disinformation.

“We’re constantly dealing with this, right? The misinformation," Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told reporters. "That would be so unsubstantiated in every way, shape, or form, where somebody would declare victory when a fraction of the vote is counted.”

» READ MORE: What we will and won’t know on election night in Pennsylvania

During a Monday afternoon rally in Erie, Pence encouraged voters to return their mail ballots to drop boxes — even though the Trump campaign has sued to prohibit their use.

“After we get done here, I’m told you can drop off your absentee ballot," Pence said. “I guess there’s a drop box or something.”

Earlier, at an airport rally in Latrobe, in Westmoreland County, Pence urged supporters to show the world that Southwestern Pennsylvania is “Trump country.”

“It’s on, Pennsylvania,” Pence said, “and the road to victory goes straight through the Keystone State.”

Biden entered the final hours of the campaign holding a consistent but not insurmountable lead in polls of Pennsylvania and other battleground states. Surveys released over the weekend and Monday showed him with an advantage over Trump in the mid- to high-single digits.

At Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, thousands waited in the sunny cold for Trump’s arrival. Attendees bundled against the strong wind in Make America Great Again knitted hats, scarves, and face masks.

Melissa Finken, of Pen Argyl in Northampton County, said she voted for Trump four years ago because she appreciates his willingness to call out corruption in politics.

» READ MORE: How Biden’s lead is different from Clinton’s — and why the polls are different this time

“I like his realness,” said Finken, 54, who was wrapped in a Trump flag. “Sometimes he talks a little stupid, but he’s real like us. Sure he’s rich, but he can be down to Earth too.”

In Beaver County, union supporters carried Biden-Harris signs and cheered loudly when Biden took the stage. Claire Cawley, a representative of the International Union Painters and Allied Trades said she was glad Election Day is almost here.

“I feel uncertain and anxious, but I’m trying to stay positive,” Cawley said. “With COVID and mail ballots, it’s hard to predict anything. But I know we’ve done all we can to encourage our members to vote their union values.”

Michael Capozzeli, 51, a former Bucks County resident who now lives in Washington County, marveled at the excitement of even a socially distanced drive-in rally at Biden’s final Pittsburgh event.

“Seeing everyone in their cars, suffering through the worst traffic on Earth to get here, even when so many people will be up at 6 a.m. tomorrow working the polls. That’s something," he said. “I haven’t seen this kind of energy since Obama.”

Staff writers Jonathan Lai, Rob Tornoe, and Laura McCrystal contributed to this article.