By WILL WEISSERT (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — An election year that unfolded against a backdrop of economic turmoil, elimination of federal abortion rights and broad concerns about the future of democracy is concluding with a final full day of campaigning by leaders of both parties urgently appealing to their supporters.
President Joe Biden is holding a Monday evening rally in Maryland, where Democrats have one of their best opportunities to reclaim a Republican-held governor’s seat. The appearance is consistent with Biden’s late-campaign strategy of sticking largely to his party’s strongholds rather than stumping in more competitive territory, where control of Congress may ultimately be decided.
His predecessor, Donald Trump, is holding his final rally of the campaign in Ohio. Ohio holds special meaning for the former president as he readies another run for the White House because it was one of the first places where he was able to prove his enduring power among Republican voters two years ago. Trump’s backing of JD Vance was crucial in helping the author and venture capitalist — and onetime Trump critic — secure the GOP’s nomination for a Senate seat.
In an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton airing Monday on Sharpton’s radio show, Biden warned that his administration’s progress on key issues including bolstering funding for historically Black colleges and universities and trying to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans would be at risk if Republicans take Congress.
“If we don’t win, they’re going to wipe out everything we’ve done,” the president said. He also raised concerns about voter intimidation, saying, “America should feel safe going to the polls” and mentioning people outside voting stations with automatic rifles.
“It’s outrageous,” Biden said.
Elon Musk, whose purchase of Twitter has roiled the social media world, used the platform Monday to endorse the GOP, writing, “I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic.”
That came too late for more than 41 million Americans who had already cast ballots. In fact, Monday was more about ensuring that supporters either meet early voting deadlines or make firm plans to show up at polling places in person.
The election results will have a powerful impact on the final two years of Biden’s presidency, shaping policy on everything from government spending to military support for Ukraine. In the first national election since the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, the final days of the campaign focused on fundamental questions about the nation’s political values.
Campaigning in New York for Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday, Biden said Republicans were willing to condone last year’s mob attack at the Capitol and that, after the recent assault of Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some in that party made “light of it” or were “making excuses.”
“There’s never been a time in my career where we’ve glorified violence based on a political preference,” the president said.
Meanwhile, at a Sunday Trump rally in Miami, a reference to Pelosi prompted chants of “Lock her up!” — a stark reminder of the nation’s deep divide.
Trump was campaigning for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s reelection, but also focused on his own political future. After telling a crowd in Iowa last week that he’s “very, very, very probably” going to run for president again, he again teased the possibility on Sunday and encouraged supporters to watch his Ohio rally.
“I will probably have to do it again, but stay tuned,” Trump said, teasing the Monday event. “We have a big, big rally. Stay tuned for tomorrow night.”
Not attending the Miami event was Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who is running for reelection against Democrat Charlie Crist and is widely considered Trump’s most formidable challenger if he also were to get into the White House race.
DeSantis held his own, separate events Sunday in other parts of the state where he stuck to the centerpieces of his reelection campaign, including railing against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The governor’s counter political programing avoided antagonizing Trump — meaning it didn’t deliver the dueling 2024 events that could be in his and Trump’s near future.
Trump said Sunday that Florida would “reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor.” But he was more confrontational during a Pennsylvania rally on Saturday, referring to Florida’s governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
It’s a rivalry that’s been simmering for more than a year as DeSantis has taken increasingly bold steps to boost his national profile and build a deep fundraising network — even as Trump remains unquestionably the party’s most popular leader.
For national Democrats, meanwhile, the focus is on their narrow control of the House and Senate, which could evaporate after Tuesday.
Voters may rebuke the party controlling the White House and Congress amid surging inflation, concerns about crime and pessimism about the direction of the country. History suggests any party in power will suffer significant losses in the midterms.
First lady Jill Biden campaigned Monday for Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in a part of northern Virginia that Joe Biden carried two years ago. It could be an early indicator of GOP midterm strength should Wexton’s seat flip to her Republican challenger, Hung Cao.
The first lady told about 100 people outside a home in Ashburn, about 30 miles from Washington, that, in Congress, a “Republican majority will attack women’s rights and health care.”
Trump has long falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election only because Democrats cheated and has even begun raising the possibility of election fraud this year. Federal intelligence agencies are warning of the possibility of political violence from far-right extremists.
Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, said Democrats were “inflation deniers,” as she tried to deflect their branding of her party as anti-democracy for rejecting the results of 2020’s presidential election simply because Trump lost it.
“If we win back the House and the Senate, it’s the American people saying to Joe Biden, we want you to work on behalf of us and we want you to work across the aisle to solve the problems that we are dealing with,” McDaniel told CNN.
Associated Press Writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.