Biden, Trump headline dueling rallies as midterms near

By Nathan Layne

HIRAM, Georgia (Reuters) -President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump headline rallies in New York and Florida, respectively, on Sunday to fire up voters two days before a tight midterm election in which Republicans are pushing to flip both chambers of Congress.

Nonpartisan forecasts and polls show Republicans are heavy favorites to win control of the House of Representatives, with the Senate a toss-up. Control of even one chamber would allow Republicans to stymie Democrat Biden's legislative agenda and launch potentially damaging investigations.

In recent weeks momentum has shifted toward the Republicans, Democratic strategists acknowledge, as voters' concerns about inflation and crime have outweighed those about abortion after the Supreme Court ended the nationwide right to abortion in June. Democrats' early lead in several Senate races, including in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada, have shrunk or evaporated.

At a rally in Hiram, Georgia, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker tied his opponent, incument Democratic Senator Raphael Walker, to what Republicans have tried to portray as failures of the Biden administration – including inflation and illegal immmigration.

"In two short years, do you not feel the pain?" he said. "This is on their watch."

Top Democrats have stressed their work to lower prescription drug prices and portrayed Republicans as a threat to Social Security and to democracy itself.

Republicans have questioned Democrats' support for law enforcement and harnessed concerns about crime, which has emerged as a top voter concern after murder rates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You turn on the TV and that's all you see," said Republican voter Marie Vlad, 66, at Walker's rally.

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, head of the Democrats' fundraising arm for the House who faces his own tight race, described the election as "razor close" and implicitly questioned the Republicans' commitment to democracy.

"We've got all kinds of things we can do better, but we are responsible adults who believe in this democracy," Maloney told NBC's "Meet the Press."

For Democrats, Sunday's rallies in areas traditionally friendly to the party are a last-minute chance to minimize losses on Tuesday.

Biden will appear in Westchester County, normally safe Democratic territory outside New York City where Republicans are threatening to make gains.

New York's Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul is facing an unexpectedly stiff challenge from Republican Lee Zeldin, while Democratic incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives are locked in tight battles around the state.

Also playing against Democrats is Biden's unpopularity, which had led him to hold back from campaigning in some swing states. Only 40% of Americans approve of his job performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Chicago, another Democratic stronghold, where she said Democrats could pass national abortion-rights legislation if they added to their margins in the Senate. "If we pick up two more senators, the president can sign it into law," she said.

First Lady Jill Biden visited Texas, a Republican-dominated state that has a handful of competitive races. "Choosing who leads our community is one way we can live out our faith," she told worshippers at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston.

Trump will appear in Miami alongside the state's two U.S. senators and several U.S. representatives. Florida for years swung from party to party, but has recently trended Republican and is not considered a major battleground this election.

Trump's frequent rallies maintain his profile as he weighs launching a third run for the White House after the midterms, according to advisers. Florida could be a battleground in any nominating contest because its Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is viewed by strategists as a formidable contender for the Republican nomination, should he throw his hat in the ring.

That has made DeSantis a target for Trump, who called the governor "Ron DeSanctimonious" on Saturday evening.

(Additional reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York and Gram Slattery and Sarah Lynch in Washington; Writing by Andy Sullivan, Gram Slattery and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Deepa Babington)

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