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Democrats, Republicans make urgent final speeches as election season draws to a close

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President Joe Biden is holding a Monday night rally in Maryland, while his predecessor will hold his final campaign rally in Ohio.

COATESVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Candidates and prominent supporters from coast to coast turned to voters Monday in the final hours of a tight race midterm election seasonwith Republicans excited at the prospect of taking back Congress and President Joe Biden insisting his party will “surprise the living devil out of a lot of people.”

Democrats argue that Republican victories could profoundly and negatively reshape the country, stripping abortion rights across the country and posing broad threats to the very future of American democracy. Republicans say the public is tired of Biden’s policies amid high inflation and worries about crime.

“We know deep down that our democracy is at risk,” Biden said at an evening rally in Maryland, where Democrats have one of the best chances to win back the governor’s seat, which is held by a Republican. “I want you to know, we will meet this moment.”

Shortly after returning to the White House, Biden was more forthcoming, saying, “I think we’re going to win the Senate. I think the House is tougher.” When asked what the reality of management would be, he replied: “It’s more difficult.”

The Maryland event was in line with Biden’s late-campaign strategy of sticking mostly to his party’s strongholds rather than venturing into more competitive territory where control of Congress could ultimately be decided. In 2020, Biden won Maryland with more than 65% of the vote and appeared alongside Wes Moore, a 44-year-old Rhodes Scholar who could become the state’s first black governor.

The president said at an earlier virtual event: “Imagine what we can do in a second term if we keep control.”

Most political forecasters don’t think Democrats will — and predict Tuesday’s results will have a big impact on the next two years of Biden’s presidency, shaping policy on everything from government spending to military support for Ukraine.

In the first national elections since the violence January 6, 2021, Capitol UprisingDemocrats have tried to focus key races on fundamental questions about the country’s political values.

The man at the center of most of the debate on January 6, the former president Donald Trumpwas in Ohio for his final rally of the 2022 campaign — and already thinking about his future in 2024. He teased that he might officially launch a third presidential race at a Monday night rally with Senate candidate J.D. Vance — which Trump concluded by promising a “The Big Announcement” next week at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Trump’s endorsement of Vance in Ohio this year was critical in helping the author and venture capitalist — and onetime Trump critic — secure the GOP nomination for the Senate seat. He now faces Democrat Tim Ryan.

“When I think about tomorrow, it’s about the American dream surviving into the next generation,” Vance told thousands of cheering supporters wearing Trump 2024 sports caps and T-shirts at Dayton International Airport.

While the GOP likes its chances of flipping the House, control of the Senate could come down to a few crucial races. These include Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was in a tight race against Republican celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz.

“This is one of the most important races in America,” Fetterman told a crowd of about 100 people Monday outside a union hall outside a steel mill in Coatesville, about 40 miles west of Philadelphia. “Dr. Oz spent over $27 million of his own money. But this place is not for sale.”

At an overnight rally in suburban Philadelphia, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley introduced Oz to a crowd of about 1,500.

“There are too many extreme positions in Washington, too many things that are distracting us from where the real answers lie,” Oz said. “I will bring balance to Washington. But John Fetterman? He will bring more extreme.”

Fetterman’s campaign noted that Oz campaigned with Trump in recent days at a same-sex wedding venue and a fitness center whose owner organized buses to Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington.

In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who has been locked in a bitter feud with Republican Herschel Walker, has tried to portray himself as pragmatic — capable of succeeding in Washington even if the GOP has more power. Warnock vowed on Monday to “do whatever I need to do and work with whoever I need to work with to do good things.”

Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly also tried to strike a moderate tone. He praised the late Republican state Sen. John McCain, noting that he had not asked Biden to campaign with him but “would welcome the president to come here any time.”

Kelly’s Republican rival, Blake Masters, called the senator “a simple vote for Joe Biden’s failed agenda.”

“You look at what Biden and Mark Kelly are doing. Like are they so incompetent or are they trying to destroy the country?’ Masters said. “I think it’s both.”

Elon Musk, whose purchase of Twitter rocked the social media worldused that platform on Monday to endorse the Republican Party, writing, “I recommend voting for a Republican Congress given that the presidency is Democratic.”

It came too late for the more than 44 million Americans who had already voted early. Biden, meanwhile, wasn’t all positive on the final day of the campaign. He has been warning about extremism for weeks and also said on Monday: “We are facing the darkest forces we have ever seen in our history.”

“These MAGA Republicans are a different breed of cat,” he said, referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Biden also raised concerns about voter intimidation during the midterm elections, even suggesting that some people were near polling stations with assault rifles.

The president was scheduled to watch the return from the White House on Tuesday night.

Trump a long time ago falsely claimed he only lost the 2020 election because the democrats cheated and he started raising the possibility of election fraud this year. Many Republican candidates across the country continue to adhere to his denial of the election, even as federal intelligence agencies warn of the possibility of political violence from far-right extremists.

Threats can also come from abroad, as in past races. Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin is connected to the Kremlin admitted on Monday that he had meddled in the US election and would continue to do so.

“If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American dream, then you have to vote Republican tomorrow in the giant red wave that we’ve all heard about,” Trump said at a Monday night rally in Ohio. He also went after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying, “I think she’s an animal” days after her husband, Paul, was brutally beaten by an intruder in the couple’s San Francisco home.

First Lady Jill Biden appeared with her husband in Maryland, but also campaigned for Democratic candidate Jennifer Wexton in northern Virginia earlier Monday. It could be an early indicator of a GOP boost in the midterms, when Wexton’s seat goes to her GOP rival, Hong Cao.

The first lady told about 100 people outside her home in Ashburn, about 30 miles outside Washington, that the race could come down to a slim number of votes. And she warned that in Congress “the Republican majority will attack women’s rights and health care.”

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Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Macon, Ga., Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix, Josh Boak in Bowie, Maryland, Julie Carr Smith in Vandalia, Ohio, Matt Rourke in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, and Jill Colvin, Colin Long, and Chris Megerian in Washington. contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors that arise in midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.

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