WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has dismissed allegations by his Democratic opponent Joe Biden that he would try to delay the November election as the country struggles to quell the coronavirus outbreak.
"I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would I do that?" Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.
"I look forward to that election, and that was just made-up propaganda. Not by him, but by some of the many people" who are working for Mr Biden, Mr Trump said.
The Republican President cannot by law unilaterally change the date of the presidential election, which is due on Nov 3.
"Mark my words, I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held," Mr Biden said during an online fund-raiser last week.
Mr Trump, he suggested, is "trying to let the word out that he's going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote", adding: "That's the only way he thinks he can possibly win."
Early polls show that Mr Trump is vulnerable in several key battleground states and, as the President dispenses conflicting and often misleading information at his daily briefings on the coronavirus, Mr Biden's remarks amounted to a warning shot that attempts to frame for the public - to Mr Trump's advantage - what may be the ugliest election in recent American history.
For Mr Biden, though, the more immediate challenge is getting airtime. Confined to his home to respect anti-virus measures and facing an accusation of sexual assault, Mr Biden is finding it hard to get his message across in a country laser-focused on the health crisis.
He has won a series of major endorsements - the latest came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday - but has had to rely on late-night appearances and virtual town halls to make his voice heard.
Meanwhile, President Trump is front and centre every day.
Is it time for the Democrats to worry? University of Virginia political analyst Kyle Kondik says no.
"Biden wants to make this election more of a referendum on Trump," Mr Kondik told Agence France-Presse.
"That Trump dominates the news while Biden doesn't is not a problem for this kind of strategy, because Trump's domination of the news is not at this point broadening Trump's own level of support," he added.
Indeed, in her endorsement, Mrs Pelosi hailed Mr Biden as a man of "empathy, grace and courage", and "a leader with the humility to seek expertise in science and the confidence to act on it" - a pointed bid to draw a contrast with Mr Trump.
"As we face the coronavirus, Joe Biden has been a voice of reason and resilience with a clear path to lead us out of this crisis," she said.
More than 2,500 lawmakers, officials and community leaders have rallied behind Mr Biden, his campaign team said on Monday.
The biggest endorsement came from Mr Biden's former boss Barack Obama. The former president remains extremely popular among Democrats.
Mr Biden also won the backing of his former rivals, including leading progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
But the advantage Mr Biden might have earned - especially in terms of making up fund-raising ground against Mr Trump - has been effectively neutralised by the coronavirus pandemic.
He is in lockdown at his home in Delaware, where he has built a makeshift studio in his basement for his television appearances. He has even launched a podcast.
On campaigning in a more traditional way, a Biden adviser told AFP: "He (Mr Biden) would very much enjoy that if it was at all possible right now, but we are always careful to follow the guidance of health officials."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES