The historic US election 2020 on November 3 is just a day away. When the whole world is predicting the elction result, the last moment voters are contemplating on their chosen one.
Here is the journey made by the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Donald Trump: the wrecking ball who came to 'fix' America
All his life, the only constant about Donald Trump has been that everything must be about Donald Trump.
"I alone can fix it," the property tycoon claimed about America's deepest problems in a speech accepting his Republican Party's nomination for the presidency in 2016.
This Tuesday, four years after Trump's shock victory over Hillary Clinton, Americans vote in what amounts to a referendum on the 74-year-old's brazen claim.
Polls consistently find that a majority opposes Trump, but those who do support him express rarely seen levels of adoration, so the chance of another epic upset cannot be ruled out. When a man draws large crowds around the country chanting "We love you!" — during a pandemic — who would bet confidently against him?
Yet having taken office vowing to end "American carnage," Trump today presides over even greater turmoil, accused by many of breaking, not fixing, a country in worse disarray than at any point since the 1970s.
More than 230,000 have died from the coronavirus, while lockdowns have left millions in economic dire straits. Racial wounds, bared during a summer of protests, fester while Republicans and Democrats in Washington bicker and backstab.
And for all his bragging, Trump himself is damaged.
After relentlessly downplaying the health crisis, he was hospitalized with Covid-19 a month from Election Day, saying afterward that he almost died.
While his health appears to have recovered, his reputation is ragged.
He is only the third US president to have been impeached and he faces a morass of courtroom probes, ranging from tax issues to accusations of rape and other sexual assault.
The harshest critics see even deeper wrongdoing — wrongdoing of historic, existential proportions that has sullied the White House, turned American against American, and betrayed the millions abroad who once looked to Washington for guidance.
Of course, Trump can brush off his presidential challenger Joe Biden, who calls him "a threat to this nation."
But the critiques of men who once worked with, not against, Trump are, like so much else in this administration, unprecedented.
"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try," wrote former defense secretary James Mattis, a ramrod straight US Marine Corps general who resigned in 2018.
"I think we need to look harder at who we elect," Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly, another Marine ex-general, said icily.
"Unfit for office," said John Bolton, who served as national security advisor and is one of the most right-wing foreign policy experts in Washington.
At first, they laughed
The lifelong salesman, reality TV performer and master self-promoter, has never let himself stay down for long. He won't now.
On the day Trump got out of hospital, with treatment still ongoing, he tweeted: "Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life." He claimed to feel 20 years younger.
"I wanted to rip that Superman shirt open," he has said to cheers from crowds on the campaign trail.
That humorous boast — just self-confident or ludicrously egomaniacal? — summed up everything that makes Trump so magnetic to fans and infuriating to opponents.
But all year, even as the rancor around his presidency grew, Trump has been striding in that same fashion toward a hoped-for second term, convinced as ever of his indispensability.
"Whether you love me or hate me, you have got to vote for me," he says.
Polls suggest that the president has only the narrowest path to victory over Biden. He's down in almost every swing state, he's even fighting to keep the deepest of deep Republican strongholds, Texas.
Yet Democrats fear that Trump can again defy the laws of political physics.
Back in 2016, many Americans literally laughed at the idea of a Trump White House.
With his improbable hairspray-assisted coif, bronze make-up, famed diet of fast food and obsessive television watching, the fast-talking, non-stop-tweeting New Yorker had been seen, at best, as a political circus act.
Yet that November 8, the neophyte politician defeated Clinton, a Democratic heavyweight whose victory had seemed all but assured.
'A way of life'
The thrill felt by supporters at that triumph and the trauma inflicted on Trump's opponents is hard to overstate. And every event of the 45th president's tempestuous first term only stoked those conflicting emotions.
To his own side, amounting to just over 40 percent of the country, Trump constituted a giant middle finger to every member of the establishment, from the Republican party bigwigs to leftist Hollywood and the media.
To everyone else, he was a national nightmare beginning on election night and recurring daily.
And like the human embodiment of one of his glass skyscrapers, the elected President Trump soon towered over the country.
The harder his opponents tried to knock him back down, the more he thrived.
An extraordinary two-year investigation into links between Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Trump's campaign confirmed troubling behavior but eventually ended in anticlimax.
When Democrats launched impeachment proceedings in 2019, the Republican Party, which had once pushed desperately to keep Trump from even running, backed him to the hilt. He was easily acquitted.
All the while, the kind of offstage turmoil that might ordinarily sink a presidency — court battles with a porn star, accusations of billeting government employees at his golf clubs to earn hefty profits, the jailing of his lawyer — fueled Trump's defiance.
Weaponizing Twitter and rallying his red baseball cap wearing MAGA fans in a permanent reelection campaign, Trump went to war not just against critics but almost every US institution.
Heavyweight White House dissenters were abruptly shown the door. Journalists became the "enemy of the people." Intelligence services and the FBI were demonized as the "deep state." Opponents in Congress were variously branded "liar," "crazy" and treasonous.
As Trump tweeted gleefully in 2012, "when someone attacks me, I always attack back… except 100x more."
It's "a way of life!"
Critics accused him of authoritarianism. Supporters gloated that he was "owning the libs."
He was, as ferociously right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said: "Mr Man Donald Trump."
The 'stable genius'
The same gaudy, nationalist Trump brand swept the world stage, leaving diplomatic upheaval in its wake.
Throwing out a decades-old emphasis on coalition building, Trump transformed US alliances into cut-throat business relationships.
Friendly partners like South Korea, Germany and Canada were accused of trying to "rip us off." By contrast, US foes and rivals like North Korea and China, were invited to negotiate in ground-breaking, if patchy diplomatic initiatives where Trump played the starring role.
What never changed, at home and abroad, was that everything, everywhere always had to be about the big man with the dyed hair, the perma-tan, his former model wife Melania, his ambitious children, and the self-declared faith in his own "very stable genius."
According to The Washington Post's rolling tally, Trump made more than 16,000 false or misleading statements in the first three years of his administration alone.
One typically brazen claim, though, was hard to contest: "There's never been a president like President Trump."
Working class hero?
Perhaps the most remarkable point in the whole story is that Trump did all this and got to where he is today with no training in the ways of Washington at all.
Prior to 2016, Trump was only famous for his ruthless persona presiding over the reality TV show "The Apprentice," and for developing luxury buildings and golf clubs.
Politically, his main contribution was pushing the conspiracy "birther" theory, seen by many as overtly racist, that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Yet in 2016, this derided, amateur politician managed to put his finger on the national pulse, when others did not.
Identifying a historic build-up of working class resentment at industrial decline and rapidly spreading liberal social norms, Trump branded himself as a revolutionary outsider.
Ever the brilliant marketer, Trump harnessed the power of Twitter, Facebook and a friendly Fox News to sell himself to what he called America's "forgotten men and women."
And he hit the electoral jackpot.
Yes, he'd been the archetypal one-percenter, complete with private jets, fashion model girlfriends, multiple marriages, and gold bathroom faucets.
But in proud rust belt communities his vow to restore factory jobs and coal mines struck a chord. His brutally frank call to end "stupid, endless wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan resonated deeply. His promise of a wall along the US-Mexican border thrilled frustrated white voters.
In these disintegrating manufacturing towns, the more "unpresidential" Trump sounded, the better. The more he caused outrage, the more he sounded like an outsider — like one of them.
As Trump has often told his blue collar supporters with a poker face: "We're the elite."
Future historians trying to understand Trump's psyche may well find themselves spending less time among the presidential archives than watching MMA, boxing and, especially, the gaudy, absurd and violent showmanship of US professional wrestling.
Although overweight and averse to exercise, Trump has been a longtime fan of martial arts. And he regularly expresses an unusual level of interest in other men's physical strength or toughness.
He peppers speeches with references to fellow politicians' muscles or lack of muscles. Even in the Oval Office, he'll sometimes pause mid-sentence to admire a male guest's hands or stature.
His own physique is itself the regular subject of attention, such as his bizarre digression during a 2019 speech into details of how doctors admired his "gorgeous chest."
The so-called strongmen of world politics seem to exercise a similar hold.
While Trump has clashed repeatedly with America's oldest democratic allies, he gets on surprisingly well with top tier autocrats and dictators ranging from Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Russia's Vladimir Putin.
When it comes to North Korea's Kim Jong Un, one of the most repressive leaders on the planet, Trump has even spoken of "love."
The inter-strongman admiration is mutual. Jair Bolsonaro, an ex-army officer who praises Brazil's past dictatorship, fashioned his presidency on becoming known as the "Trump of the Tropics."
'Drives them crazy'
At home, Trump's most ardent opponents warn that the president seeks to go further in emulating such men.
Adam Schiff, a leader of the Democratic impeachment team, described Trump as "dangerous." Another Democrat, Jerrold Nadler, called him a "dictator" seeking to become "all powerful."
Trump, being Trump, revels in the controversy he causes.
When Xi Jinping had the rules changed in 2018 to make himself China's president for life, Trump didn't call him out.
Quite the opposite: he congratulated Xi, then added: "Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day."
For an exhausted US media and public, Trump's apparent joke was barely a shock.
After all, the country was becoming used to him constantly suggesting — always apparently joking — that he should defy the constitution to stay in office for multiple terms or even forever.
"It drives them crazy," he says with satisfaction of the media.
The unlikely journey began June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York City.
Donald John Trump was the fourth of five children born to wealthy real estate developer Fred Trump and Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, a Scottish immigrant.
Sent for toughening up at a private military academy during his high school years, Trump nevertheless enjoyed a gilded youth, ending up with a business degree at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
Like many privileged young men of the era, he found numerous ways to get out of being drafted to fight in Vietnam.
Joining the family firm, Trump got started with what he called a "very small loan" from his father of $1 million. Some reports put the amount at perhaps 10 times more.
Trump took over the firm from 1971, shifting the property business to Manhattan and launching his persona as America's most famous playboy billionaire.
In addition to a stable of high-rise towers, casinos and golf courses, stretching from New Jersey to Mumbai, he eventually became the longtime co-owner of the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty contests.
Behind the sheen of A-lister success, though, lay a tangled record of bankruptcies, lawsuits and eyebrow-raising loans. Trump has gone to great lengths to hide this less glamorous picture, breaking presidential tradition and refusing to release his tax returns.
In September, The New York Times reported that it had seen the famous returns and found, incredibly, that Trump routinely manages to avoid paying almost any federal income tax at all — at most $750.
The report triggered the umpteenth scandal of this presidency. Yet that too was soon largely forgotten, swept away by the next drama, then the next and the next.
On Tuesday, Americans are deciding whether or not to switch off the reality show.
Trump thinks they won't.
As he once said: "Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken."
Joe Biden: From tragedy to verge of triumph in storied political career
He has suffered profound personal tragedy and seen his earlier political ambitions thwarted, but veteran Democrat Joe Biden hopes his pledge to unify Americans will deliver him the presidency after nearly half a century in Washington.
Rarely has the profile of opposing presidential nominees differed so sharply as in the 2020 race, which pits the empathetic Biden, with decades of leadership and a blue-collar upbringing, against brawling President Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman who insists he remains the outsider.
But in his decades-long White House quest — Biden has run twice before — the optimist from Delaware maintains he can shift the tone in America from anger and suspicion to dignity and respect.
"We only have two more days! Two more days, we can put an end to this presidency that has from the very beginning sought to divide us, to tear us apart," he said at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania Sunday.
"Folks. In two days, we can put an end to a presidency that has failed to protect this nation. In two days we can put an end to a presidency that has fanned the flames of hate, poured gasoline on every opportunity he had all across this nation."
At 77 and leading in the polls just days ahead of the November 3 vote, Biden is on the cusp of becoming America's oldest ever president.
He would inherit a coronavirus pandemic that shows no signs of abating and an office he believes has had its credibility shattered by the "liar" Trump.
A loss to the unpopular president, the challenger said in a candid moment recently, would mean Biden is a "lousy" candidate — and would certainly lower the curtain on a prolific if ultimately unfulfilling political career.
But Biden is no shrinking violet. He has relentlessly hammered away at Trump's handling of the pandemic and, in 2018, told students at a Florida university that he would "beat the hell out of him" if the two men were in high school.
Biden hit the national stage at just 29, with a surprise US Senate win in Delaware in 1972.
But just one month later, tragedy struck: his wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash as they were Christmas shopping.
Biden's two sons were severely injured but survived, only for the eldest, Beau, to succumb to cancer in 2015. The tragedies help nourish the empathy that shines through in Biden's interactions with everyday Americans.
His retail politicking skills are peerless: he can flash his million-watt smile at college students, commiserate with unemployed Rust Belt machinists, or deliver a fiery admonishment of rivals.
That personable, gregarious propensity has been curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, which brought in-person campaigning to a halt in March and has prompted a more cautious Biden on the trail.
He no longer cuts the same figure he did during his eight years as Barack Obama's vice president. Though the dazzling smile remains, Biden's gait is more delicate and his fine white hair thinned.
Opponents, and even some Democrats, wondered whether Biden, garrulous and gaffe-prone, would stumble in his long campaign against Trump.
The 74-year-old president regularly calls him "Sleepy Joe" and accuses him of diminished mental acuity.
But Biden has shrugged off the attacks, and in a flash of frustration with the relentlessly interrupting Trump during their first debate, at one point told the president to "shut up."
Elected one of the youngest senators ever, he spent more than three decades in the upper chamber before serving eight years a Barack Obama's deputy.
Biden's message is built largely on his association with the still-popular Obama and on his ability to do business with the many world leaders that his former boss sent him to meet ("I know these guys," he often reminds people).
He offers moderate politics in a divisive time, but he has pledged to take progressive action as president, on climate change, racial injustice and student debt relief.
Biden almost did not make it this far. Despite being the favorite of the Democratic establishment, he was deemed by some to be too old or too centrist.
His campaign looked like it was headed for disaster after disappointing primary losses to the fiery Bernie Sanders early this year.
But Biden came roaring back in South Carolina's primary on the strength of overwhelming backing from African-American voters, a crucial base of Democratic support.
Clinching the nomination marked a sharp contrast to his 1988 flameout, when he quit in disgrace after being caught plagiarizing a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock.
In 2008 he hardly fared better, dropping out after mustering less than one percent of the vote in Iowa's caucuses.
That year he was ultimately picked as running mate by Obama, who dubbed him "America's happy warrior."
After their victory Obama quickly assigned Biden to oversee the economic recovery during the last recession.
The two men differed over Afghanistan at the front end of Obama's first term, with Biden opposing a 30,000-troop "surge."
As a senator for more than 30 years, Biden was known to forge unlikely alliances — and, like Trump, he developed a lack of fidelity to script.
He faced a reckoning among Democrats — including Kamala Harris, who would become his running mate — for associating with known segregationists in the Senate and, in the midst of 1970s desegregation, for opposing "busing" policies aimed at transporting Black children to predominantly white schools.
He also caught flak for helping draft a 1994 crime bill which many Democrats believe drove up incarcerations, disproportionately affecting African Americans. Biden recently called the push a "mistake."
Other Senate episodes also threatened to spoil his presidential campaign: his 2003 vote for the Iraq war, and his chairmanship of controversial hearings in 1991 in which Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.
Last year he faced a storm over his own notoriously tactile approach with female voters that could suggest a man out of step with his modernizing party.
He apologized, and promised to be more "mindful" of women's personal space.
Biden relays the heart-wrenching details of his family stories so often that, despite his obvious grief, they have become part of a political brand.
The 1972 accident left his sons Beau, four, and Hunter, two, badly injured, and the 30-year-old Biden was sworn in beside their hospital beds.
Biden met his second wife, teacher Jill Jacobs, in 1975 and they married two years later. They have a daughter, Ashley.
Both boys recovered from their injuries and Beau followed his father into politics, becoming attorney general of Delaware — but the Democratic rising star died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46.
'Get back up'
Lawyer and lobbyist Hunter Biden has had a different trajectory.
He received a lucrative salary serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company accused of corruption while his father was vice president.
Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens led to the president's impeachment last December by the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, but he was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.
Hunter was not personally accused of any criminal wrongdoing, but Trump hasn't let the issue die.
He repeatedly insists the Bidens are a "crime family" getting rich off of corruption, but the accusations are of dubious origin and polling suggests they have not stuck with American voters.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr was born November 20, 1942 and raised in the Rust Belt town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in an Irish-Catholic family.
His father was a car salesman, but when the city went through tough times in the 1950s and he lost his job, he moved the family to neighboring Delaware when Joe Biden was 10.
"My dad always said, 'Champ, when you get knocked down, you get back up,'" Biden says.
He made Delaware his political domain. As a young man he served as a lifeguard in a majority-Black neighborhood, an experience he said sharpened his awareness of systemic inequalities and strengthened his political interest.
Biden studied at the University of Delaware and the Syracuse University law school, and has expressed pride that he is not a product of the elite Ivy League.
He touts his working-class roots and recalls being hampered as a child by a stutter so bad he was cruelly nicknamed "Dash."
But he overcame the condition, and on the campaign trail has spoken about how he still counsels youngsters who stutter.
Biden often points to Jill, 69, as a powerful asset for his campaign, and recalled recently how she took over as mother to her husband's two boys.
"She put us back together," Biden has said.
'Proud of me?'
"It never goes away," Biden said of the pain that lives within him since losing Beau. The tragedy prevented him from launching a presidential bid in 2016.
Even today, he often stops to greet firefighters, recalling that it was they who saved his boys.
They saved Biden too. In 1988 firefighters rushed him to hospital after an aneurysm.
Biden's condition was so dire that a priest was called to give him last rites.
Nearly every Sunday Biden prays at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, a Catholic church in his affluent Wilmington neighborhood.
There in the cemetery rest his parents, his first wife and daughter — and his son Beau, under a tombstone decorated with small American flags.
In January Biden confided about Beau and his undeniable influence: "Every morning I get up… and I think to myself, 'Is he proud of me?'"