Pressure mounts as Biden avoids rallies
Democratic candidate Joe Biden has returned to his basement, with no campaign events until after the final presidential debate at the end of the week.
As Donald Trump pledged to hold as many as five rallies a day until the election in a fortnight, Mr Biden continued to avoid questions about his son's business dealings.
That means the next time he is in public will be at the second debate and organisers announced they have cracked down with some new rules.
The candidates will each be given just two minutes of uninterrupted talking time before their microphones are turned off.
The 90-minute debate will be in six 15-minute parts and each candidate will be granted an uninterrupted two minutes to answer.
The moderator will not cut into the back and forth part of the debate, but the commission said any interruptions would count against the candidate's total time.
The commission said it "had determined that it is appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed upon rules and inappropriate to make changes to those rules."
When the pair met for the first and only other debate, they repeatedly cut off each other and moderator Chris Wallace.
It came as Mr Trump accused the Democrats of holding up a coronavirus vaccine for political purposes as the partisan stoush grew over navigating the pandemic.
Focusing heavily on the coronavirus during the first of two rallies being held on Monday in the key battleground state of Arizona, Mr Trump also criticised and mocked his infectious diseases chief Anthony Fauci.
A day after Dr Fauci told US 60 Minutes he was "absolutely not" surprised Mr Trump had fallen ill with COVID because of his cavalier approach to social distancing, Mr Trump tore into him during a campaign call.
Continuing to ramp up his anti-science language in his bid to restart America's economy from state-mandated lockdowns, Mr Trump labelled Dr Fauci and other experts as "idiots".
"People are tired of COVID," Mr Trump said.
"People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.
"Every time he goes on television, there's always a bomb, but there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy's a disaster.
"If I listened to him, we'd have 500,000 deaths."
Later Mr Trump mimicked an awkward baseball pitch from the 79-year-old, drawing cheers and laughter from a large rally crowd gathered at an airport in Prescott, Arizona.
He said Mr Biden was co-ordinating plans to "lock down" the country if he wins in a fortnight.
"You know Biden wants to lock it down, he wants to listen to Dr Fauci," Mr Trump said.
"He has a bad arm, but he's a good guy.
"Look, our people don't like him. I like him."
Mr Trump's criticism of Dr Fauci was slammed by Team Biden.
"Now, eight months into the pandemic - with nearly 220,000 American lives lost, more than 8 million infected, and millions out of work - Trump's closing message in the final days of the 2020 race is to publicly mock Joe Biden for trusting science and to call Dr. Fauci, the leading public health official on COVID-19, a "disaster" and other public health officials "idiots"," the campaign said in a statement.
Responding to a pledge by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that he would not use a vaccine released by a Trump administration, the president said the companies involved including Johnson and Johnson were "ready" to release their therapies but were waiting on approvals.
"They are willing to demean a vaccine for political purposes," Mr Trump said of the Democrats.
"It's a shame when you try and demean something so important for politics."
Trailing in national polls and neck and neck in several battlegrounds, there was some good news for Mr Trump, with the gap in key battleground state Pennsylvania narrowing over the past week to within the margin of error.
One of six states Mr Trump defied odds to win in 2016, the battle for Pennsylvania tightened to Biden at 49 per cent to Trump's 45, compared to a 51 per cent to 44 per cent lead a week ago.
A buoyant Mr Trump said yesterday that he believed Republicans would retake the White House on November 3.
"We are going to win. I wouldn't have told you that maybe two or three weeks ago," Mr Trump told campaign staff in a call on Monday local time.
It came as Democratic challenger Joe Biden's campaign announced he was calling "a lid" for four days until after the final presidential debate in Nashville, on Thursday night, local time.
A spokesperson said the former vice president was preparing for his final face-off against Mr Trump, three weeks after the pair first sparred in a disastrous debate that was labelled a nursing home brawl.
But it also conveniently shields Mr Biden from taking questions about the growing scandal engulfing his son, Hunter Biden, whose dodgy deals with foreign entities were exposed by the New York Post after a laptop containing damning emails was handed to the paper.
And there were concerns Mr Biden would also be spared questions about his son at the debate, after the Election Commission, which Republicans accuse of being partisan, struck foreign affairs from the list of topics that would be covered.
"ARE YOU FRICKEN KIDDING ME???," tweeted Donald Trump Jnr.
"Given the corruption we have see (sic), it should be the only topic of discussion so we can finally get an answer from Joe Biden!"
Originally published as Pressure mounts as Biden avoids rallies