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Trump Attacks Dr. Fauci, Press & Polls 10/20 06:18

   An angry President Donald Trump has come out swinging against Dr. Anthony 
Fauci, the press and polls that show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key 
battleground states in a disjointed closing message two weeks before Election 
Day.

   TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- An angry President Donald Trump has come out swinging 
against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the press and polls that show him trailing Democrat 
Joe Biden in key battleground states in a disjointed closing message two weeks 
before Election Day.

   On the third day of a western campaign swing, Trump was facing intense 
pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge 
that gave him a come-from-behind victory four years ago. But his inconsistent 
message, another rise in coronavirus cases and his attacks on experts like 
Fauci could undermine his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most 
loyal base.

   "I'm not running scared," Trump told reporters on Monday before taking off 
for Tucson, Arizona, for his fifth rally in three days. "I think I'm running 
angry. I'm running happy, and I'm running very content 'cause I've done a great 
job."

   Trump's aggressive travel comes as he plays defense in states he won four 
years ago, though the Republican president insisted he was confident as he 
executed a packed schedule despite the pandemic.

   "We're going to win," he told campaign staff on a morning conference call 
from Las Vegas. He went on to acknowledge that he "wouldn't have told you that 
maybe two or three weeks ago," referring to the days when he was hospitalized 
with COVID-19. But he said he felt better now than at any point in 2016. "We're 
in the best shape we've ever been," he said.

   Seeking to shore up the morale of his staff amid growing private concerns 
that he is running out of time to make up lost ground, Trump blasted his 
government's own scientific experts as too negative, even as his handling of 
the pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 people in the United States, 
remains a central issue to voters.

   "People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," Trump said of the 
government's top infectious disease expert. "Every time he goes on television, 
there's always a bomb. But there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci's a 
disaster."

   At a rally in Prescott, Arizona, Trump assailed Biden for pledging to heed 
the advice of scientific experts, saying dismissively that his rival "wants to 
listen to Dr. Fauci."

   The doctor is both respected and popular, and Trump's rejection of 
scientific advice on the pandemic has already drawn bipartisan condemnation.

   At his rally, Trump also ramped up his attacks on the news media, singling 
out NBC's Kristen Welker, the moderator of the next presidential debate, as 
well as CNN for aggressively covering a pandemic that is now infecting tens of 
thousands of Americans every day.

   Fauci, in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, said he 
was not surprised that Trump contracted the virus after he held a series of 
large events with few face coverings.

   "I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely 
precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost 
nobody wearing a mask," Fauci said of the president.

   Biden was off the campaign trail Monday, but his campaign praised Fauci and 
criticized Trump for "reckless and negligent leadership" that "threatens to put 
more lives at risk."

   "Trump's closing message in the final days of the 2020 race is to publicly 
mock Joe Biden for trusting science and to call Dr. Fauci, the leading public 
health official on COVID-19, a 'disaster' and other public health officials 
'idiots,'" the campaign said.

   Monday's professed confidence in victory stood in contrast to some of 
Trump's other public comments in recent days reflecting on the prospect that he 
could lose.

   "Could you imagine if I lose my whole life? What am I going to do?" he asked 
a rally crowd last week in Macon, Georgia. "I'm not going to feel so good. 
Maybe I'll have to leave the country. I don't know."

   Biden, meanwhile, was in Delaware for several days of preparation ahead of 
Thursday's final presidential debate. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala 
Harris, returned to the campaign trail after several days in Washington after a 
close adviser tested positive for the coronavirus.

   Late Monday, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced 
that Trump and Biden will each have his microphone cut off in Thursday's debate 
while his rival delivers his opening two-minute answer to each of the six 
debate topics.

   The rule changes come three weeks after a chaotic opening faceoff between 
the two presidential contenders that featured frequent interruptions --- most 
often by Trump. The open discussion portion of the debate will not feature a 
mute button, but interruptions by either candidate will count toward their time.

   The commission has faced pressure from the Trump campaign to avoid changing 
the rules, while Biden's team was hoping for a more ordered debate. In a 
statement, the commission said it "had determined that it is appropriate to 
adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed upon rules and 
inappropriate to make changes to those rules."

   Trump's campaign said he would participate in the debate despite his 
concerns about the new rule.

   "I just think it's very unfair," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One 
as he returned from Arizona. "I will participate, but it's very unfair that 
they changed the topics and it's very unfair that, again, we have an anchor 
who's totally biased."

   In addition to public polling that indicates Biden has an edge, the former 
vice president enjoys another considerable advantage: money.

   Over the past four months, Biden has raised over $1 billion, a massive 
amount of money that has significantly eclipsed Trump's once-overwhelming cash 
advantage.

   That's become apparent in advertising, where Biden and his Democratic allies 
are on pace to spend twice as much as Trump and the Republicans in the closing 
days of the race, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

   "We have more than sufficient air cover, almost three times as much as 
2016," said Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who insisted Trump has the 
advantage with the campaign's field staff and data targeting.

   Though Trump has pulled back from advertising in Midwestern states that 
secured his 2016 win, he's invested heavily elsewhere, including North 
Carolina, where he is on pace to slightly outspend Biden.

   Concerns about a possible loss to Biden that have been spilling into the 
open in recent days have been percolating behind the scenes at the Trump 
campaign. Trump himself has alternated between disbelief and anger at the idea 
that he could lose to a candidate he views as washed up and incompetent, 
according to three campaign and White House officials not authorized to speak 
publicly about private conversations.

   Trump has directed anger at press coverage but also has vented about his 
chief of staff, Mark Meadows, whom he blames for mishandling his 
hospitalization for the virus and COVID-19 relief talks.

   He has asked some of his closest advisers if a campaign shakeup was needed, 
according to the officials. The president was encouraged to hold off on any 
moves so close to Election Day.

   Meanwhile, aides have started privately wondering whether or not Trump's 
campaign rallies, which have helped define American politics for the last five 
years, were in their final days.

   In recent weeks, meanwhile, some White House staff offices have also tried 
to rotate in aides who have never flown on Air Force One or have done so 
infrequently so they can do so before Election Day.

 
 
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