Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintains a steady lead in polls of the state, which Hillary Clinton won by less than 3 percentage points in 2016. According to a recent Times/Siena College poll, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump 48 percent to 42 percent, with 6 percent of the state’s voters saying they remain undecided.
But even if Mr. Trump is behind in the polls, he did get encouragement, and a blessing, from some evangelical leaders: Early Sunday, he attended services at the International Church of Las Vegas, where a church leader said that she had a prophecy that God would give the president “a second wind” to carry him through the campaign, and “that he will be the president again.”
Mr. Trump then attended a fund-raiser in Newport Beach, Calif., on Sunday afternoon, and returned to Nevada for a rally at an airport in Carson City.
In a meandering speech that lasted about 90 minutes, Mr. Trump spent much of the time attacking Mr. Biden and other Democrats.
The “Biden family is a criminal enterprise,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd responded with chants of “Lock him up.”
Mr. Trump, who tested positive for the coronavirus less than three weeks ago, said the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, which has now left more than 219,000 Americans dead.
“Normal life, that’s all we want, we want normal life,” he told the cheering crowd. “We want to be where we were seven months ago.”
Sunday’s events marked the president’s second swing through Nevada in the last two months — in September he hosted two rallies, including one indoors. The business that hosted the indoor rally in Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, was later fined because thousands of people were present, despite state health regulations limiting gatherings to 50 people.
Current state guidelines say gatherings should be limited to 250 people. Mr. Trump has described his campaign events as “protests,” which he says should exempt them from limits on large gatherings.
Over 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.
The state has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, which brought tourism to a halt and left 90 percent of members of the powerful Culinary Union, which represents tens of thousands of workers in Las Vegas and Reno, unemployed. The union has long been credited with helping Democrats win in the state.
With just over two weeks until Election Day, Joseph R. Biden Jr. held a drive-in rally on Sunday in North Carolina, a state that could be crucial both to the presidential contest and the battle for control of the Senate.
At a high school in Durham, part of the Research Triangle region that is an area of strength for Democrats, supporters cheered him by beeping their car horns as he spoke.
The event was the latest in a string of drive-in rallies that Mr. Biden has held in battleground states. His campaign has stressed the importance of following health precautions, and the drive-in events reflect a starkly different approach to campaigning during a pandemic compared with the large rallies that President Trump is holding.
Early in-person voting is underway in North Carolina, which Democrats have not won in a presidential election since Barack Obama narrowly carried the state in 2008. At the rally, Mr. Biden urged people not to wait to vote.
“Go vote today, and don’t just vote for me and Senator Harris,” he said, listing a number of other races in the state, including contests for governor and senator.
Polls in North Carolina show a close race between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll found Mr. Biden with the support of 46 percent of likely voters, compared with 42 percent for Mr. Trump.
For the president, keeping the state in his column is critically important.
“Without North Carolina, it’s very hard to imagine Donald Trump winning,” Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, said during a virtual event with supporters on Friday.
North Carolina is also a crucial state in the fight for control of the Senate, where Republicans are hoping to hold on to their majority. Senator Thom Tillis is trying to keep his seat in a close and expensive race against Cal Cunningham, his Democratic challenger.
Mr. Cunningham has been embroiled in a scandal over exchanging romantic text messages with a woman who is not his wife, and he did not have a speaking slot at Mr. Biden’s rally.
Afterward, Mr. Biden participated in a virtual event with African-American faith leaders, during which he asked for their prayers. “Pray I have the capacity to step up and do this job, because four more years of Donald Trump will fundamentally change the nature of this country for several generations,” he said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan on Sunday condemned President Trump after his supporters at a Saturday rally in the state broke out in a chant to “lock her up,” just a week after she was the target of a kidnapping plot.
Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Ms. Whitmer said, “It’s incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me — 10 days after that was uncovered — the president is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.”
Ms. Whitmer has been the target of conservative criticism for her strict policies in the spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and Michigan’s Supreme Court recently ruled that her use of executive orders to extend the state’s emergency declaration order was unconstitutional. Since a peak in the spring, Michigan had successfully kept coronavirus cases from climbing until the last few weeks, which have seen a sharp rise.
“I’m not going to get distracted by attacks from the White House or a Supreme Court here in the state that is undermining my work,” Ms. Whitmer said on Sunday. “I’m going to keep going forward and doing everything I can to protect my people.”
At the Saturday rally, held at the Muskegon airport, Mr. Trump responded to the “lock her up” chants by saying, “Lock them all up.”
On Sunday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi also condemned the president over the episode, while Trump campaign surrogates played down his remarks.
Ms. Pelosi, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was “irresponsible,” particularly targeting a female governor.
“The president has to realize that the words of the president of the United States weigh a ton,” Ms. Pelosi said. “And in our political dialogue, to inject fear tactics into it, especially a woman governor and her family, is so irresponsible.”
Jason Miller, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Trump does not regret his remarks made during the rally.
“I think the fact of the matter is that many residents of Michigan are pretty frustrated with the governor,” Mr. Miller said.
“I’m glad that President Trump’s D.O.J. was able to get these psychopaths and put them away,” he added of the men arrested in connection with the domestic terrorism plot.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Lara Trump, a senior adviser for the campaign and the wife of Mr. Trump’s son Eric, said the president “wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all.”
“He was having fun at a Trump rally,” she said.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is flipping the script on President Trump, who has tried to frame the election as a choice between keeping the economy open or returning to coronavirus lockdowns under Democrats.
The plight of bars and clubs, many of which remain shuttered and are struggling for survival in the pandemic, is the focus of a new television ad that the Biden campaign aired on CBS on Sunday during an N.F.L. game.
They are places like the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Mich., which has been a magnet for musicians for 50 years, from Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon to Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
The music there has gone silent. Bar stools are turned upside-down. The beer taps are dry.
“Right now, it’s an empty room,” Joe Malcoun, the bar’s owner, says in the ad. “This is the reality of Trump’s Covid response. We don’t know how much longer we can survive not having any revenue.”
Mr. Malcoun said that all of the uncertainty and the lack of planning may be too much for business owners to overcome.
“A lot of restaurants and bars that have been mainstays for years will not make it through this,” he said. “This is Donald Trump’s economy.”
The ad features the song “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, who rarely license their music for commercials. It was shown across much of the Midwest and in parts of North Carolina and Florida, election battlegrounds that Mr. Trump has tried to hold onto with an onslaught of attacks against Democrats over emergency orders during the pandemic.
In Michigan, Mr. Trump has clashed with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, over restrictions, with the president telling tens of millions of Twitter followers earlier this year that they should liberate the state.
Earlier this month, the F.B.I. announced terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against 13 men for their part in a plot to try to overthrow the government in Michigan. At least six of the people arrested, law enforcement officials said, had hatched a detailed plan to kidnap Ms. Whitmer.
Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said on Sunday he is open to expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court should Senate Republicans continue to rush forward to confirm President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Mr. Coons, a key ally of the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., called Judge Barrett “extreme” and “unqualified” during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Mr. Coons added he was “not a fan” of expanding the number of justices on the court, but said he would consider it if necessary.
“If we happen to be in the fact pattern where we have a President Biden, we’ll have to look at what the right steps are to rebalance our federal judiciary,” Mr. Coons said.
Mr. Coons’s refusal to rule out expanding the court carries particular weight because he is one of the more bipartisan Senate Democrats, and because he is close to Mr. Biden and has his ear.
The Judiciary Committee, controlled by Republicans, is expected on Thursday to vote in favor of Judge Barrett, a conservative Catholic who personally opposes abortion rights. Mr. Coons also defended Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, from calls that she be replaced after she praised and hugged Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the committee, at the end of last week’s hearings on Judge Barrett’s nomination.
“Senator Feinstein was clear in her opposition to Judge Barrett. She has a long record of fighting for reproductive rights, for gender equity,” Mr. Coons said. “She carried the torch well for those of us on the Democratic side who were fighting this nomination. I don’t think we should put too much weight on just a few sentences at the end of four long days where she was being gracious to the chairman.”
He said Ms. Feinstein and other Democrats on the committee remain “angry” at Mr. Graham for “racing through” Judge Barrett’s nomination.
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.
In public, President Trump and his campaign team project a sense of optimism and bravado. When they meet with Republican donors and state party leaders, presidential aides insist they are fully capable of achieving a close victory over Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Nov. 3.
In private, most members of Mr. Trump’s team are grappling with a different reality.
Away from their candidate and the television cameras, some of Mr. Trump’s aides are quietly conceding just how dire his political predicament appears to be, and his inner circle has returned to a state of recriminations and backbiting. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, is drawing furious blame from the president and some political advisers for his handling of Mr. Trump’s recent hospitalization.
Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, has maintained to senior Republicans that the president has a path forward in the race but at times has conceded it is narrow.
Some midlevel aides on the Trump campaign have even begun inquiring about employment on Capitol Hill after the election, apparently under the assumption that there will not be a second Trump administration for them to serve in.
Less than three weeks before Election Day, there is now an extraordinary gulf separating Mr. Trump’s experience of the campaign from the more sobering political assessments of a number of party officials and operatives, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Republican strategists, White House allies and elected officials. Among some of Mr. Trump’s lieutenants, there is an attitude of grit mixed with resignation: a sense that the best they can do for the final stretch is to keep the president occupied, happy and off Twitter as much as possible, rather than producing a major shift in strategy.
Often, their biggest obstacle is Mr. Trump himself.
Instead of delivering a focused closing message aimed at changing people’s perceptions about his handling of the coronavirus, or making a case for why he can revive the economy better than Mr. Biden can, Mr. Trump is spending the remaining days on a familiar mix of personal grievances, attacks on his opponents and obfuscations.
“The president appears to have doubled down on a base election strategy,” said Ken Spain, a Republican strategist, “while Republicans down ballot must figure out a way to appeal to independent voters in states like North Carolina and Maine and Michigan.”
Samantha Kacmarik, a Latina college student in Las Vegas, said that four years ago, she had viewed Hillary Clinton as part of a corrupt political establishment.
Flowers Forever, a Black transgender music producer in Milwaukee, said she had thought Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t change anything for the better.
And Thomas Moline, a white retired garbageman in Minneapolis, said he simply hadn’t trusted her.
None of them voted for Mrs. Clinton. All of them plan to vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The point seems almost too obvious to note: Mr. Biden is not Mrs. Clinton. Yet for many Democrats and independents who sat out 2016, voted for third-party candidates or backed Mr. Trump, it is a rationale for their vote that comes up repeatedly: Mr. Biden is more acceptable to them than Mrs. Clinton was, in ways large and small, personal and political, sexist and not, and those differences help them feel more comfortable voting for the Democratic nominee this time around.
Mr. Biden also benefits, of course, from the intense desire among Democrats to get President Trump out of office. And a majority of voters give the president low marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the dominant issue of the race. But a key distinction between 2020 and 2016 is that, four years ago, the race came down to two of the most disliked and polarizing candidates in American history, and one of them also faced obstacles that came with being a barrier-breaking woman.
Mr. Biden now leads Mr. Trump in many public polls by bigger margins than Mrs. Clinton had in 2016. In private polling and focus groups, voters express more positive views of Mr. Biden than of Mrs. Clinton, according to strategists affiliated with both Democrats’ campaigns.
Since 2019, Mr. Biden has held an advantage of four to eight points over Mrs. Clinton in key swing districts, according to an analysis by John Hagner, a partner at Clarity Campaign Labs, a Democratic data analytics firm.
Polling shows Mr. Biden scoring higher than Mrs. Clinton among a wide range of demographic groups — most notably older voters, white voters and suburbanites. But his advantage is stark among those who sat out the 2016 election or backed third-party candidates.
Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump, 49 percent to 19 percent, among likely voters who backed third-party candidates in 2016, according to recent polling of battleground states by The New York Times and Siena College. Among registered voters who sat out the 2016 election, Mr. Biden leads by nine percentage points, the polls found.
In the final weeks of the campaign, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has made Scranton, Pa., his hometown, a major part of his closing pitch. “I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” he said at a CNN event in town last month. Embedded in Mr. Biden’s shorthand is that he can win back the paradigmatic Scranton voter: white, working class, disaffected by Democrats.
But Scranton is no longer the dying coal town of Mr. Biden’s youth. It is both more racially diverse and prosperous. In more than two dozen interviews the week of Mr. Biden’s visit, few voters were particularly enthusiastic about his candidacy, despite his personal roots, but about half said they probably would vote for him anyway. Voters who abandoned the Democratic Party in 2016 said they planned to vote for Mr. Trump again this year. Some people said they were so fed up with politics that they were not going to vote at all. Others expressed annoyance at what they said was Mr. Biden’s habit of making Scranton into a kind of blue-collar cartoon.
At the town-hall-style event, held six miles from downtown in a stadium parking lot, Mr. Biden, in describing the hometown he knew, said that not many people in Scranton owned stock.
“Frankly, it was insulting,” said Frances Keating, 74, a retired accountant who has lived in Scranton most of her life. “He’s using Scranton as a prop.”
Still, she said she planned to vote for Mr. Biden because “Trump is a monster.”
Scranton has become a symbol for Democrats’ lost dreams in 2016, when working-class voters abandoned the party in droves. The city itself is blue. But the surrounding county, Lackawanna, and a neighboring one, Luzerne, had the second- and third-largest swings toward Mr. Trump of any county with more than 100,000 voters in the United States. The surge was enough to cover his 44,000-vote victory in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Trump is trailing in the state by seven percentage points, but the enthusiasm he enjoys among many ancestral Democrats in Scranton highlights the challenges Mr. Biden still faces in a state regarded by both parties as a must-win next month.
With the G.O.P. majority in the Senate in peril and Democrats closing the gap in his home state, Senator John Cornyn of Texas acknowledged that Republican lawmakers like himself who are on the ballot this year are wedded to President Trump: for better or worse.
In an interview on Friday with the editorial board of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mr. Cornyn compared his relationship with Mr. Trump to marriage and said that getting the president to mend his ways was futile.
He described the dynamic as “maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.”
Mr. Cornyn said that he has avoided public spats with Mr. Trump, in contrast with some of his Republican colleagues who have crossed the president.
“I think what we found is that we’re not going to change President Trump,” he said. “He is who he is. You either love him or hate him, and there’s not much in between. What I tried to do is not get into public confrontations and fights with him because, as I’ve observed, those usually don’t end too well.”
Mr. Cornyn’s comments came as a number of Republicans in the Senate, bracing for a wipeout, have distanced themselves from Mr. Trump.
He is seeking a fourth term in the Senate, which Democrats can flip by picking up three seats if Joseph R. Biden Jr. is elected president or four seats if Mr. Trump is re-elected.
Only California has more electoral votes than Texas, a state that Mr. Trump carried by nine percentage points in 2016, but where polling shows a tight race for president.
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 religiously diverse coalition.
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.
For the better part of a century, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made their political home under the Republican Party’s tent, motivated by conservative beliefs rooted in the family values, personal liberty and economic frugality of their faith.
But some church members now find themselves in a political quandary: They’re still Republicans, but they no longer fit in with the party as exemplified by President Trump, who for them represents a hard departure from the church’s teachings on sex, crude language, empathy and humility.
In Arizona — the only state up for grabs that has a significant Latter-day Saint population — a growing number are finding refuge in Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.
Most church members are still likely to support the president again this year, said Quin Monson, a Utah-based pollster, who noted that party loyalty is ingrained in the religion. They agree with Mr. Trump more than they disagree with him, and for many, the issue of abortion is a litmus test that few Democratic candidates can pass.
Still, exit polling from 2016 showed 56 percent of church members supported Mr. Trump, far less than the support he received from members of other faiths. Mr. Trump, for instance, won almost 80 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote.
Even a small shift in Latter-day Saints’ voting patterns could have a large impact in Arizona. There are about 437,000 members of the faith in the state, though that number includes children; Mr. Trump won by just 91,000 votes in 2016. With well educated suburbanites already moving away from the president, the race is expected to be considerably closer this year.
Despite their reservations about Mr. Trump in 2016, members of the faith largely fell into familiar voting patterns, supporting Mr. Trump or begrudgingly casting their votes for a third-party candidate. But Mr. Biden doesn’t cause the same reluctance among some Latter-day Saints as Hillary Clinton did.
Rob Taber, the head of the LDS Democrats of America, says he understands how isolating it can be for church members who don’t support the Republican nominee, and he is trying to create “a home for the politically homeless” in the Biden campaign.
“We like to say, converts are welcome,” he said. “But this election, visitors are welcome.”
At a drive-in campaign rally last week at a union hall in Toledo, Ohio, Joseph R. Biden Jr. asked those in the audience to beep their car horns if they earned more than $400,000 a year. “You’re going to get a tax raise,” he declared as some cars honked.
Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has proposed sweeping tax increases on high earners and large corporations, which various independent forecasting models project would raise around $2.5 trillion or more in revenue over a decade. In a rare case of agreement, both Mr. Biden and his incumbent opponent, President Trump, have sought to elevate those tax plans in the closing weeks of the campaign.
The competing strategies reflect diverging views of how voters respond to tax increases — and of how those increases will affect a fragile economic recovery in the years to come.
Mr. Biden and his advisers say tax increases now would accelerate growth by funding a stream of spending proposals that would help the economy, like infrastructure improvement and investments in clean energy. At least one independent study supports those claims, finding that Mr. Biden’s full suite of plans would bolster economic growth. Researchers at some conservative think tanks project that his tax increases would exert only a modest drag on the economy.
Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans say otherwise, arguing that tax increases of any kind threaten to derail the rebound from recession. “If he comes along and raises rates, all those companies that are coming in, they will leave the U.S. so fast your head will spin,” the president said on Thursday during an NBC town hall event. “We can’t let that happen.”