(CNN)Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is ending the 2020 race as he began it, arguing that the “soul of the nation” is at stake and that he would seek to heal a country fractured by Donald Trump’s presidency.
One week from Election Day, Biden delivered a speech in Georgia that his aides billed as the former vice president’s closing argument. The speech took place in Warm Springs — the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Little White House,” where Roosevelt healed from polio.
In the speech, he evoked the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope Francis, saying he would seek to “ensure that our better angels prevail over our worst instincts.”
The speech underscored how — even as the coronavirus pandemic has upended the campaign and American life — Biden’s central message has largely remained unchanged since he launched his campaign in April 2019, criticizing Trump on moral grounds.
“I believe this election is about who we are as a nation, what we believe, and maybe most importantly, who we want to be. It’s about our essence; it’s about what makes us Americans. It’s that fundamental,” Biden said.
“Time and again throughout our history, we’ve seen charlatans, the con-men, the phony populists, who sought to play on our fears, appear to our worst appetites, and pick at the oldest scabs we have, for their own political gain. They appear when the nation’s been hit the hardest; we’re at our most vulnerable,” he said. He cited the Pope’s recent criticism of populist politics that sows “nothing but division, conflict and a bleak cynicism.”
Biden’s trip to Georgia showed how broad his campaign believes its path to 270 electoral votes could be. Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, are competing in 10 states that Trump won in 2016: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. In Georgia, where Biden also planned to hold a drive-in rally later Tuesday, two Senate seats are also on the ballot.
Biden’s speech in Georgia largely focused on how he would attempt to move past a politics that he said “for too long have been mean and bitter and divisive.” He described Trump as in it for himself and more focused on television ratings than the American people.
But he also lambasted Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting White House chief of staff Mark Meadows telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that “we are not going to control the pandemic.”
Biden said Trump should have spent months instructing Americans to wear masks and encouraging social distancing, rather than holding “super-spreader” campaign rallies where most attendees have not worn masks. He also said Trump should have more aggressively moved toward a national system of testing and contact tracing of those with the virus.
“We can and we will control this virus. As president, I will never wave the white flag of surrender,” Biden said.