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Update On Presidential Campaigns


President Trump is back on the campaign trail for the first time since his COVID-19 hospitalization. He held a rally at an airport in Florida this evening, the first in a series of visits to key states this week. Meanwhile, his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, campaigns in Ohio, a state that Democrats are trying to flip back into their column. NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid joins us now.

Hey, Asma.


CHANG: OK. Let's start with the president's return to the campaign trail. His physician says he has tested negative on consecutive days and he's no longer a transmission risk to others. So the president is back holding rallies just - what? - a week after being discharged from the hospital. Do you feel like there's a real sense of urgency inside his campaign to get him back on the trail?

KHALID: You know, Ailsa, I think that that's a great question because, really, apart from any questions about whether being this active on the campaign trail is perhaps good for his health or good for the health of others around him, there is definitely a sense of political urgency, in part because the next presidential debate that was scheduled for this week has been canceled. And current polls show that President Trump is down nationally, as well as in a number of key swing states.

And we're at a point this election cycle where millions of people have already voted. We know that early voting's going to be a key part of this all. And voting itself will end three weeks from tomorrow, so he definitely needs to make up some ground, according to the polls.

You know, he has been himself, I should say, very active on Twitter today. He's been touting his SCOTUS nominee, as well as the stock market and trying to hit Joe Biden on the event that he held in Ohio today. There is definitely a sense from his campaign that they want to be active and that he wants to be active. Here's what one of the campaign's advisers, Jason Miller, said today.


JASON MILLER: Even this morning in our morning conversation was getting on my case for not having enough rallies and public events scheduled, so he's ready to go. I expect him - to see him out there, at least in the short term, two to three events a day. That will even grow as we get closer to Election Day.

KHALID: And, Ailsa, they really are, you know, projecting confidence. It's also worth noting that Bill Stepien, the Trump campaign's manager, is also back at work after having his own COVID diagnosis.

CHANG: Wow. All right. So Joe Biden was in Toledo, Ohio, this afternoon. What was Biden's message to voters there?

KHALID: This was a message that was really focused on speaking directly to union auto workers. It was a drive-in rally. And his speech, you know, was occasionally peppered with honks for approval. The key message, though, was really the economy, including this harkening back to the Obama administration's efforts to rescue the auto companies amidst the Great Recession.

He also, though, specifically took aim at President Trump for what he says was, you know, a betrayal of unions, for losing American jobs and a hit to manufacturing. Joe Biden mentioned that this hit to manufacturing - in his view, it took place actually before even COVID-19 really hit the United States. And he also tried to talk up his own economic agenda. You know, Biden has put forth these plans where he says he will really boost American manufacturing and put taxes on companies that offshore jobs in an effort to sort of boost incentives for electric vehicle production here in the United States.


JOE BIDEN: I'll expand capacity so the United States, not China, leads the world in modern new technology. We're going to make it easier for American consumers to move to the vehicles of the future.

KHALID: And, Ailsa, he has really been trying to portray this contest as a battle between himself, being from Scranton, Pa., and Park Avenue, represented by Donald Trump. And this was, again, a comparison we heard him play up today.

CHANG: Right. And real quick, Vice President Mike Pence was also campaigning in Ohio today. Obviously, Ohio is important in all presidential races. But can you just for a second compare Ohio in 2016 to what's going on in Ohio today?

KHALID: Oh, gosh. It feels so different, Ailsa. I mean, President Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016. It seemed lost to Democrats at the beginning of this cycle - not at all where we see the campaign now. The Trump campaign is very confident about it. But the most recent polling average shows Ohio is virtually a toss-up.

CHANG: That is NPR's Asma Khalid.

Thank you, Asma.

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

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.