Offbeat moments on US election campaign trail

WASHINGTON (AFP) – With less than two months until the United States (US) elections, the race for the White House – long pushed to the margins by the coronavirus pandemic – has finally taken off: a good time for AFP to make a weekly list of offbeat moments on the campaign trail.

No holds are barred for the Donald Trump campaign, which this week launched a series of Facebook ads including one featuring a picture of Democratic opponent Joe Biden, touched up to add wrinkles and age spots to make the 77-year-old look older.

A campaign official also admitted sharing a falsified video montage that appeared to show Biden falling asleep in the middle of a television interview.

Trump is 74 years old.

Biden’s digital team came up with its own way of bursting the bubble of the president’s supporters: it bought up the online domain KeepAmericaGreat.com, one of the key slogans of the Trump campaign. When Trump fans click on it, it redirects them to a site attacking the president’s record.

In the bitter fight for the White House, a former occupant of the residence is placed in a very particular position: Abraham Lincoln.

Donald Trump likes to portray himself as a natural heir to the man who abolished slavery, while anti-Trump Republicans have appropriated his name for a Trump-bashing campaign, The Lincoln Project.

This file photo shows United States (US) President Donald Trump departing the East Room of the White House in Washington. PHOTO: AP

That fight over the 16th President made it perfect for a lock of Honest Abe’s hair, snipped off during the autopsy after his assassination in 1865, to go on the auction block.

The macabre keepsake came attached to a bloodstained telegram announcing the president’s death. The RR auction house in Boston put the hair and telegram on sale online, with a deadline for bids on September 12. As of Friday, the highest bid was USD28,000.

Hair also made headlines this week when it emerged that Nancy Pelosi, the powerful Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said she was the victim of a “setup” after she was filmed on a security camera visiting an indoor hair salon in defiance of pandemic regulations in her hometown of San Francisco.

Pelosi, a fierce critic of Trump’s handling of the health crisis, said she had fallen for a trap set by the salon’s owner, who has been pushing for months to be allowed to re-open.

Trump was quick to take to Twitter to attack one of his most outspoken critics. “Maybe the Beauty Parlour owner should be running the House of Representatives instead of Crazy Nancy?” the president said.

Biden, who has largely kept a low profile in recent months as controversies dogged his opponent, finally stepped fully onto the campaign trail this week, visiting Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two key states in the election.

On Friday he returned to his home state of Delaware to take part in an online fundraising push, but a loud noise in the background forced him to ask his interlocutor to raise his voice.

Biden explained it was just his neighbour mowing his lawn, and that he couldn’t ask him to stop: surely a Trump supporter.

Trump may have exchanged “love letters” with Kim Jong-un, but it was reportedly his press spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders who caught the North Korean strongman’s eye.

When Kim allegedly winked at the daughter of former Arkansas governor Minister Mike Huckabee during a summit in Singapore in 2018, Trump told her to “go to North Korea and take one for the team”, according to Sanders’ new memoir.

Sander recounted the wink to Trump and his then chief of staff John Kelly afterward. Trump joked, “Your husband and kids will miss you, but you’ll be a hero to your country!”