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Following Presidential Campaigns On Election Day

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Meanwhile, the two men vying for the presidency of the United States launched their last appeals today before they, too, have to wait for results. For more on the Trump and Biden campaigns today, we welcome back NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe and political correspondent Scott Detrow.

Hey there, you two. Happy Election Day.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: Scott, I'm going to start with you. You're traveling again with Joe Biden today. It sounds like we've caught you once again on a campaign bus, in fact, so you can tell us about that. It seems like some of the stops today have had a very personal connection for Joe Biden.

DETROW: Yeah, you can divide today's travel into two trips. First was really nostalgic and personal. Biden and his family started the day going to mass at his longtime Delaware parish. He visited the gravesite of his son Beau, who died in 2015. Then he flew to his childhood home of Scranton. He visited the home he grew up in until his family moved. I asked him on his way out what he was thinking about inside that house on a day he could be elected president. He said he was thinking about his mother. Biden was greeted by big and clearly adoring crowds as he made stops in Scranton.

But then he flew to Philadelphia, and that was all business. Philadelphia is a critical center of Democratic votes in statewide elections. And Biden made that point, speaking to some supporters into a bullhorn.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: As goes Philly, so goes the state of Pennsylvania.

(CHEERING)

DETROW: As goes Philly, so goes the state of Pennsylvania. Now, the general benchmark for Democrats is to net about 500,000 votes out of Philadelphia. Several Democrats I've talked to today feel like they're going to hit that mark. Of course, as you mentioned, the other part of the story in Pennsylvania is the relatively slow count of mail-in ballots compared to other states.

KELLY: Yeah.

DETROW: Several Democrats are telling me to look to Allegheny County, though. That's the county where Pittsburgh is. That county counted its ballots very fast during the primary, and they feel like Allegheny County could have an early post of a lot of ballots early on this evening compared to other parts of the state, and that could give a sense of where the Democratic vote is.

KELLY: OK. That little update and snapshot there from the Biden tour bus. Ayesha Rascoe, let me get you in here. How has President Trump spent his Election Day?

RASCOE: It's been a bit of a reversal because, for the last few days, Trump has been all over, and Biden has not hit as many places. Last night, Trump wrapped up a rally in Michigan after midnight. And today he visited his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., where he gave some brief remarks. Then he headed back to the White House, where he'll be tonight. Trump did call in to "Fox & Friends" this morning, as he has been doing for the past few weeks. You know, both at the headquarters and on Fox, Trump was a bit more circumspect and less bombastic about his chances. On Fox, he was asked at what point he would declare victory, and here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX AND FRIENDS")

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When there's victory, if there's victory - I think we'll have victory. I think the polls are, you know, suppression polls. And I think we'll have victory, but only when there's victory. I mean, you know, there's no reason to play games.

RASCOE: Trump has repeatedly pushed unfounded fears about the integrity of the election, and there have been some concerns raised that he would try to declare victory before all the results are counted. Just to drive home this point and make it really clear - no candidate can just declare victory. Races could be called tonight, but no state actually finishes counting on election night.

KELLY: Can't say it enough - no state is going to finish counting tonight. Scott Detrow, back to you. Where's Biden going to be watching from tonight as results come in?

DETROW: He's going to be in Wilmington. It's going to be the same setup outside a minor league baseball stadium, where he appeared at that mostly virtual Democratic National Convention this summer. Campaign officials have told NPR we will likely hear from Biden one way or another tonight. I think the mood will be set early on for the Biden campaign, though. Democrats feel really good about Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

But it's those Sunbelt states that will set the tone - Florida, Georgia, North Carolina - all so competitive, so close. And they'll all - should post votes relatively early in the night. If Biden wins one of those places, he has a very good chance of being president. If President Trump wins all three, Biden still has a path, but it's going to be a lot closer. And I think that would instantly put Democrats all over the country back into that 2016 election night brain space if that does happen.

KELLY: Ayesha, how about - where does it look from the Trump campaign side of things? Have they indicated how they see the results unfolding tonight?

RASCOE: Trump said today to reporters that he thinks they're going to have a great night, but also, quote, "it's elections, and you never know." You know, Trump predicted big victories in Texas and Arizona and said the results from Florida and Pennsylvania would be key. Obviously, his team has seen the public polls that mostly have Trump down by narrow margins in key states.

So his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, did this big Twitter thread yesterday talking about how they expect that today's votes will offset any Democratic gains in early votes in these key states. What Stepien argued is that there is momentum on Trump's side and that there are lots of votes - or lots of Trump voters out there and that if they vote today, then Trump can win. As we've talked about, it is a bit risky to bank on Election Day votes rather than banking votes ahead of time. But, obviously, Trump pulled off a win once, and they believe he can do it again.

KELLY: OK, quick question to each of you to close us out - what is the closing message tonight from the campaign? Scott, the Biden campaign?

DETROW: It's the message that has been the opening message, the only message - the idea that Biden is battling for the soul of the nation, trying to make President Trump a one-term aberration and bring more unity to the country. That's how he started the race; that is what he was yelling into that bullhorn just a few hours ago in the last day.

KELLY: And, Ayesha, 30 seconds - what's the closing message from the president?

RASCOE: Trump's saying that he made America great, but then the pandemic took the country off track, and now he's going to make America great again again.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: OK.

RASCOE: That's it.

KELLY: That's the message. There we are. NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe and our political correspondent on the bus, Scott Detrow.

Thanks to you both.

DETROW: Sure thing.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.