Donald Trump has used rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin to urge their Democratic governors to relax coronavirus restrictions, even as both states experience record numbers of new cases.
The US president held large rallies in both swing states on Saturday, during which he attacked Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, and Tony Evers, the Wisconsin governor, over their stance towards tackling the pandemic.
The president’s renewed push to abandon coronavirus rules marks a high-risk attempt to reverse the polls in Midwestern swing states, many of which he won in 2016, but where epidemiologists say the pandemic is surging.
“You gotta get your governor to open up your state,” he told supporters in Muskegon, Michigan on Saturday afternoon. Michigan reported 1,791 new cases on Saturday, slightly lower than the record high of 2,030 reported earlier in the week.
Mr Trump then sparked anger among senior Democrats in the state by appearing to encourage his supporters in a chant of “lock her up”, in relation to Ms Whitmer, who was recently the target of an alleged kidnap plot by a rightwing militia. Mr Trump responded to the chant by saying “Lock them all up.”
“This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans,” Ms Whitmer tweeted soon after. “It needs to stop.”
The president repeated his message later in the day in Wisconsin, where new cases hit a record of 3,861 on Friday. The state is not reporting new figures over the weekend.
Cases are rising across the US as a whole, climbing to a third peak since the pandemic began. The country reported more than 69,100 new Covid-19 infections on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University — the most since July.
Mr Trump told a crowd in Janesville, Wisconsin: “You’ve got to open your state up. You’ve got to open it up and get back to school.”
And he addressed his own case of coronavirus, telling the cheering crowd: “I’m immune, I got better fast.”
Mr Trump trails his Democratic rival Joe Biden in Michigan, Wisconsin and much of the rust-belt, which he won in 2016.
Mr Biden is ahead by around 6 points in both states, according to an average of recent polls tracked by the FT. Nationally, Mr Biden is ahead by 9 points, the tracker shows.
Mr Trump will travel to Nevada on Sunday, while Mr Biden will visit North Carolina. Nevada has voted for the Democratic candidate in each of the last three elections, whereas North Carolina is seen as more of a swing state.