President Trump on Sunday will campaign in the crucial battleground of Nevada, a state where Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintains a steady lead in the polls and that Mr. Trump hopes to flip from its 2016 results.
For the past decade, Democrats in Nevada have notched one hard-fought victory after another. In 2010, Senator Harry Reid won his hotly contested re-election campaign, even as the party lost other battles all over the country. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state, though with a smaller margin of victory than Democrats garnered in the previous two presidential contests. And in 2018, the Democrats managed to capture the governor’s office and the State Senate.
According to a recent Times/Siena College poll, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump 48 percent to 42 percent, with six percent of the state’s voters saying they remain undecided. When The Times polled Nevada last month, Mr. Biden held a four-point lead.
Voters in Nevada said, by a 10-point margin, that they trusted Mr. Biden more than the president to handle the pandemic.
The poll was taken after Mr. Trump announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, and most of the survey took place before Mr. Trump returned to the White House on Oct. 5 from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he had been receiving treatment. The results show the extent to which voters’ views on the coronavirus crisis and Mr. Trump’s management of it continue to hang over the election.
The margin of error for both polls is 4.3 percentage points.
Mr. Trump traveled to two other battleground states on Saturday, campaigning in Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which he won narrowly in 2016, as he sought to defend his coalition amid polls that show Mr. Biden ahead in the final stretch of the race.
At a rally in Muskegon, Mich., Mr. Trump ripped into familiar liberal foils, as his supporters chanted “lock her up,” in reference to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who was the target of a kidnapping plot by antigovernment extremists, according to the F.B.I.
“The schools have to be open, right?” Mr. Trump said. “Lock them all up.”
Ms. Whitmer, responding on Twitter, said, “This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger.”
Mr. Biden did not hold any events on Saturday, but planned to campaign in North Carolina on Sunday, as his aides warned against complacency.
In a version of a memo that was to be sent to supporters, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, stressed that polls can be faulty or imprecise — as they were in 2016 — and warned of only narrow advantages in key states.
“This race is far closer than some of the punditry we’re seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest,” she wrote. “In the key battleground states where this election will be decided, we remain neck and neck with Donald Trump.”
That message appeared designed to keep Democratic supporters engaged in the last days of the race despite national attention on Mr. Trump’s challenges, and to motivate Biden backers to turn out and continue donating.
In a sign of the shifting electoral map, and the rising prospect of a Democratic rout, Mr. Trump campaigned on Friday in Macon, Ga., a conservative region in a once reliably conservative state.
His stop there was a reminder that the G.O.P.’s “solid South” has become more competitive, with Virginia turning blue, North Carolina a deeper shade of purple, and Georgia and Texas close behind.
It is a phrase that has been constantly invoked by Democratic and Republican leaders. It has become the clearest symbol of the mood of the country, and what people feel is at stake in November. Everyone, it seems, is fighting for it.
“This campaign isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about winning the heart and, yes, the soul of America,” Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in August at the Democratic National Convention, not long after the phrase “battle for the soul of America” appeared at the top of his campaign website, right next to his name.
Picking up on this, a recent Trump campaign ad spliced videos of Democrats invoking “the soul” of America, followed by images of clashes between protesters and the police and the words “Save America’s Soul,” with a request to text “SOUL” to make a campaign contribution.
That the election has become a referendum on the soul of the nation suggests that, in an increasingly secular country, voting has become a reflection of one’s individual morality — and that the outcome hinges in part on spiritual and philosophical questions that transcend politics: What, exactly, is the soul of the nation? What is the state of it? And what would it mean to save it?
The answers go beyond a campaign slogan, beyond politics and November, to the identity and future of the American experiment itself, especially now, with a pandemic that has wearied the country’s spirit.
Framing an entire campaign explicitly around a moral imperative — with language so rooted in Christianity — has been a standard part of the Republican playbook for decades. But it is a more unusual move for Democrats, who typically attract a more religious diverse coalition.
The soul, and the soul of the body politic, is an ancient philosophical and theological concept, one of the deepest ways humans have understood their individual identity, and their life together.
This month, a federal judge struck down a decree from Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas limiting each county in the state to a single drop box to handle the surge in absentee ballots this election season, rejecting Mr. Abbott’s argument that the limit was necessary to combat fraud.
Days later, an appellate panel of three judges appointed by President Trump froze the lower court order, keeping Mr. Abbott’s new policy in place — meaning Harris County, with more than two million voters, and Wheeler County, with well under 4,000, would both be allowed only one drop box for voters who want to hand-deliver their absentee ballots and avoid reliance on the Postal Service.
The Texas case is one of at least eight major election disputes around the country in which Federal District Court judges sided with civil rights groups and Democrats in voting cases only to be stayed by the federal appeals courts, whose ranks Mr. Trump has done more to populate than any president in more than 40 years.
The rulings highlight how Mr. Trump’s drive to fill empty judgeships is yielding benefits to his re-election campaign even before any major dispute about the outcome may make it to the Supreme Court. He made clear the political advantages he derives from his power to appoint judges when he explained last month that he was moving fast to name a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so the Supreme Court would have a full contingent to handle any election challenges, which he has indicated he might bring in the event of a loss.
In appointing dozens of reliable conservatives to the appellate bench, Mr. Trump has made it more likely that appeals come before judges with legal philosophies sympathetic to Republicans on issues including voting rights. The trend has left Democrats and civil rights lawyers increasingly concerned that they face another major impediment to their efforts to assure that as many people as possible can vote in the middle of a pandemic — and in the face of a campaign by Republicans to limit voting.
President Trump is being vastly outspent by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in television advertising in the general election battleground states and elsewhere, with the former vice president focusing overwhelmingly on the coronavirus as millions of Americans across the country begin casting early votes.
Mr. Biden has maintained a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves for months. His dominance is most pronounced in three critical swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where he spent about $53 million to Mr. Trump’s $17 million over the past month, largely on ads assailing the president’s handling of the virus as well as the economy and taxes, according to data from Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.
In Pennsylvania alone, Mr. Biden ran 38 different ads during a single week this month, a sign of how comprehensive his effort there has been.
The president’s ad strategy, in turn, reflects the challenges facing both his campaign finances and his Electoral College map. He has recently scaled back advertising in battleground states like Ohio and Iowa and, until this past week, slashed ads in Michigan and Wisconsin, despite being behind in polls. And Mr. Trump is having to divert resources to hold onto Republican-leaning states like Arizona and Georgia.
Mr. Trump spent less on ads in 2016, too, but he went on to narrowly capture critical states anyway and prevail over Hillary Clinton. Back then he relied heavily on huge rallies and live cable news coverage to get his message out, and he got extensive airtime for his attacks on Mrs. Clinton. This time around, his rallies have been fewer and smaller because of the pandemic and his own virus infection; the events have gotten less cable coverage; and he has had a hard time making attacks stick on Mr. Biden.
In many ways, the advertising picture reveals how the pandemic has upended the 2020 race. With in-person campaigning sharply limited, the traditional advantages built by a ground game in battleground states have largely been replaced by the air cover provided by advertising. More than $1.5 billion has been spent on the presidential race alone; by contrast, $496 million was spent on ads in just the presidential race by this point in the 2016 race.