By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jarrett Renshaw
PHILADELPHIA/LATROBE, Pa. (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden told voters in Pennsylvania that a Democratic loss in Tuesday’s midterm elections would have “decades” of consequences, while Republicans including his predecessor Donald Trump predicted a sweeping victory.
The biggest names in U.S. politics — Biden, Trump and former President Barack Obama — visited Pennsylvania on Saturday hoping to tip the balance in a pivotal midterm Senate race between Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
“Folks, three days, three days until one of the most important elections in our lifetime. The outcome is going to shape our country for decades to come, and the power to shape that outcome is in your hands,” Biden told supporters at Temple University in Philadelphia.
“It’s a choice. A choice between two vastly different visions of America.”
At a rally in Latrobe, southeast of Pittsburgh, Trump listed a litany of grievances with Democrats, ranging from the party’s handling of inflation to education curricula his supporters view as too progressive.
“If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American Dream then this Tuesday you must vote Republican in a giant way,” Trump said.
Trump, who sources say is preparing to launch a third consecutive run for the White House after the midterms, continues to falsely claim that his 2020 defeat by Biden was the result of widespread fraud. Multiple courts, state agencies and members of his own administration have rejected that claim as untrue.
Still, opinion polls show a significant number of Republican voters accept the claim, as do many candidates for Congress, governor and state offices overseeing election administration.
“We are going to take back that beautiful house,” Trump said of the 2024 presidential race.
Speaking to supporters in downtown Pittsburgh, Obama warned the politically motivated attack last week on Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was a product of hateful rhetoric.
“This habit we have of demonizing political opponents, of saying crazy stuff, it creates a dangerous climate,” Obama said, without referencing Republicans directly.
Republicans contend that Democrats have also engaged in political violence, citing the widespread anti-racism protests that rocked the country in 2020. On Sunday, they criticized Democrats for failing to keep their focus on inflation and crime, two of voters’ principal concerns, according to most polls.
In a pair of Saturday morning Twitter posts, Oz criticized Fetterman and Biden for failing to sufficiently support the domestic energy industry and pledged to fight inflation if elected.
“As your next Senator, I will focus on issues that matter to voters in all communities including lowering prices on everything from gas to groceries,” he wrote.
TRUMP READIES ANOTHER RUN
Trump, who was in Pennsylvania to gin up support for Republican Senate nominee, Oz, and Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, is also working to maintain his own profile as he contemplates another White House run.
That could set the stage for a Biden-Trump rematch, though some Democrats say heavy losses for Biden’s party on Tuesday could increase pressure on the president to step aside and let someone else carry the party’s mantle in 2024.
The Fetterman-Oz Senate race is one of three critical contests, along with Georgia and Nevada, that will determine whether Democrats hold onto their razor-thin majority in the Senate, and with it the power to confirm Biden’s nominees to posts ranging from his Cabinet to the Supreme Court.
Nonpartisan election forecasters and polls show Republicans are heavy favorites to win control of the House, with the Senate a toss-up. Control of even one would give Republicans the power to block Biden’s legislative agenda and launch potentially damaging investigations.
In Philadelphia, Biden warned that Republicans would attack Americans’ Social Security benefits if they won and that they would work to undo recent legislation designed to bring down prescription drug prices.
“They want to get rid of everything we just did,” Biden said.
More than 39 million Americans have already cast early ballots, either in person or by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Election officials have warned that it could take days after Tuesday for final results to be clear in closely contested elections, such as the Pennsylvania and Georgia Senate races.
Both parties have lavished attention on Pennsylvania both because of the strategic importance of the race and because of its voters’ history of swinging from one party to the other in the past four presidential elections.
Fetterman held a commanding lead in the race throughout the summer, which Oz has whittled away in the last two months.
Some factors may be local: A stroke this spring forced Fetterman to scale back his campaign schedule and has affected his speech. At a debate last month, he often stumbled over his words, in a performance even allies privately described as shaky.
But Oz’s gains also reflect a nationwide momentum shift in favor of Republicans, as voters’ focus on inflation and crime has proven more durable than concerns about abortion. Democrats’ early lead in several other Senate races, including the contests in Georgia and Nevada, have also shrunk or evaporated completely in recent weeks.
Also playing against Democrats is Biden’s unpopularity. Only 40% of Americans approve of the president’s job performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Tuesday, which has led Biden to hold back from campaigning in some key states.