'We have ten days!'.
Over 3,000 km aboard Air Force One, from South Florida to Washington via North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Donald Trump chained three campaign meetings on Saturday in one day. And displayed its willingness to continue at this frantic pace until the election on November 3.
If the polls are to be believed, victory is reaching out to his Democratic rival Joe Biden. This boost will therefore be for the former businessman either the trigger for another colossal surprise, or the last lap.
For the time being, the American president is forging ahead, with his undeniable energy slung over his shoulder, relentlessly invoking the memory of the victorious finish of 2016.
- "Like a lobster!" -
In Lumberton, North Carolina, a stage was set up in the middle of a field. A huge American flag hung between two hydraulic cranes flutters in the wind.
He enters the scene at the beginning of the afternoon, under a blazing sun.
“I'll end up like a lobster!” He laughs. "Does anyone have some sunscreen for your president?"
Polls? He gets away with this form of cunning which he often uses to put the audience on his side.
"When they're in my favor I like them, I mention them all the time, I say they're fantastic. When they're not in my favor, I don't talk about them."
Four hours later, he's in Circleville, Ohio, further north. Gray sky, the cold has fallen. He put on a coat. The audience is less reactive. He is less playful too.
In the evening he finds Waukesha (Wisconsin), not far from Lake Michigan.
The crowd, compact, is there despite the stinging autumn cold (temperature close to zero).
"If we win Wisconsin, we won, it's over!" Says Trump, who has regained his energy at the start of the day.
Once again, he stages his performance. "You have to vote eh! Me, I'm here at I don't know what time of night. And it's freezing cold! If I don't win this state, I'll come back and I will be very angry with you!" .
Lumberton, Circleville, Waukesha: beyond the ups and downs of the presidential show, the crowd always regains its enthusiasm when the first notes of "Y.M.C.A." come out at full volume. of the Village People, which concludes all the meetings. The few presidential dance moves became a staple, which also ignited TikTok.
- "We've never seen that!" -
Everything is done to mark the contrast with his Democratic rival, who is in fact spectacular.
At the announcement of this day-marathon, one of the spokespersons for the White House, Ben Williamson, stressed that Donald Trump would have visited "more states in a single day than Joe Biden during all this week".
When he moves to the rear of Air Force One for a brief exchange with the journalists who accompany him, the president himself is responsible for accentuating the contrast.
With a laid back face, he enjoys the idea of pushing up to five a day. "Do you think Joe Biden could do five a day? I don't think so ..."
Under cover of anonymity, a senior White House official sums up the home stretch equation as follows:? The Biden campaign believes that with a waiting strategy they can ride the positive polls and win. We'll see if it works ...?
- "Covid! Covid! Covid!" -
Central message of these gatherings? Covid-19 is almost already a thing of the past.
Donald Trump, who likes to brandish apocalyptic scenarios by evoking protest movements or immigration, becomes the most optimistic of leaders when it comes to the pandemic.
He mocks Joe Biden's warnings about the difficult weeks and months ahead. "Did you hear it the other night? + The winter will be dark," he draws down. ? They can find the words that inspire this guy ...?.
He promises a near return to normal, "with or without a vaccine", without, at any time, saying how.
He denounces the attitude of the media: "I turn on the television and all I hear is Covid! Covid! Covid!", He exclaims.
"By the way, I had it and I am here", he adds without a word on the heavy toll of the pandemic (nearly 225,000 dead) and the cascade of worrying indicators which have been rising again for some days.
Arrived at the White House shortly after one in the morning on Sunday, he was due to fly again, before noon. This time for New Hampshire.
Like four years ago, Donald Trump has made his omnipresence on the campaign platforms the alpha and omega of his strategy. However, if we judge the polls, notoriously stable for several months, this time it seems less profitable.
"There is a form of saturation," Julian Zelizer, professor of political science at Princeton University, told AFP.
"It was new in 2016. Today he is in power, in the midst of a major crisis, and that sounds different."
However, is this a futile exercise? Not so quickly, answers this specialist in American political history.
"It would be a mistake to brush aside the possible impact (of these meetings), even if it is clearly behind."