Joe Biden on Tuesday made his first campaign visit to Georgia, a Republican stronghold the Democrats are hoping to flip this time round, with a speech that lambasted the US president as a “charlatan” and “conman” who had surrendered in the war against the pandemic.

With just a week to go until election day, Mr Biden’s decision to campaign in a state that has not voted for a Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1992 was the surest sign yet that the former vice-president is seeking to expand his electoral map in battlegrounds that were thought to be out of reach at the start of the campaign.

Mr Biden and the Democrats now see Georgia, as well as other former Republican strongholds, including Arizona and even Texas, as states they might now be able to win amid signs of massive turnout in early voting in an election defined as historically important by both campaigns.

The former vice-president and Mr Trump are in a dead heat in Georgia, according to Financial Times analysis of RealClearPolitics polling data. The FT analysis shows Mr Biden leading Mr Trump nationally by 8.6 points, but the margins are considerably smaller in several of the swing states that hold the key to winning the Electoral College.

As election day draws closer, Mr Biden and Mr Trump are criss-crossing the country in a final attempt to win over voters. Mr Biden will travel to Florida on Thursday before hitting Wisconsin and Iowa on Friday and Michigan on Saturday.

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Mr Trump is also visiting battlegrounds that he lost in 2016 but where his campaign says he can win this time, although his travel schedule has been heavily focused on the upper Midwest states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — that were crucial to his victory four years ago.

The president will stop in Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska on Tuesday, before visiting Arizona and Nevada — a state where he was beaten by Hillary Clinton in 2016 — on Wednesday.

Mr Biden’s speech on Tuesday in Warm Springs, Georgia, invoked Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had a holiday retreat in the small city and is remembered for the New Deal Agenda that sought to redress the economic fallout from the Great Depression.

Line chart showing how Trump and Biden are doing in the US national polls

The former vice-president has sought to compare the task of rebuilding the economy following the pandemic with the challenge faced by Roosevelt when he was president between 1933 and 1945.

Mr Biden said Roosevelt was the “kind of president our nation needs right now,” adding: “A president who’s in it not for himself, but for others. A president who doesn’t divide us, but unites us. A president who appeals not to the worst in us, but to the best. That’s the kind of president I will be.”

His stop in Georgia was also intended to provide a boost to two Democrats competing in state senate races against Republican incumbents. Democrats are seeking to reclaim control of the 100-member Senate from the Republicans, and Georgia is the only state in the US where both seats are being contested.

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Mr Biden on Monday formally endorsed Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is running against Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue. He also backed Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate competing in a crowded special election to fill Georgia’s other US Senate seat.

Democrats’ campaign efforts have received a boost in recent days with the return of Barack Obama, the former US president, to the campaign trail. Mr Obama is the second most popular Democrat in the US, according to YouGov, behind only Jimmy Carter, another former president.

Mr Obama campaigned for Mr Biden on Tuesday in Florida, the second time he has visited the key swing state in less than a week. At a drive-in rally in Orlando, Mr Obama repeated his attacks on Mr Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying: “If he had been focused on Covid from the beginning, cases would not be reaching new record highs.”

Several US states are grappling with surges in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations as temperatures drop and Americans spend more time indoors. More than 217,000 Americans have died from coronavirus this year, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

“[Joe Biden] is not going to screw up testing, he is not going to call scientists idiots, he’s not going to host super spreader events at the White House and then take it on a tour all over the country,” Mr Obama added.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City who launched a failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year, has committed to spending $100m of his own money in support of Mr Biden in Florida. On Wednesday, the media magnate announced he was spending another $15m in last-minute television adverts to support the former vice-president in Texas and Ohio.

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Swamp notes

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Via Financial Times