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STORY BY STEPHEN COLLINSON ANALYSIS, CNN

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Published on October 22, 2020 4:44 AM

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Obama delivers scathing takedown of Trump before final debate
(CNN) Barack Obama, in a moment of catharsis that doubled as a warning against Democratic complacency, blasted President Donald Trump in a speech dripping with ridicule ahead of Thursday's crucial debate -- perhaps the President's last chance to turn around his campaign.

The former President on Wednesday released four years of pent-up frustration in a scathing Philadelphia appearance that is likely to further irk an already irritable commander-in-chief ahead of his showdown with Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The debate in Nashville, Tennessee, comes at a fateful moment in the White House race as fresh polls emphasize the task Trump faces in pulling off another shock election triumph in 12 days.

In a new CNN/SSRS survey, Biden leads comfortably in Pennsylvania, potentially the decisive swing state, with a clear path to 270 electoral votes if he converts leads in Wisconsin and Michigan into wins. That leaves Trump needing the kind of late surge that took him to a stunning 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. It also means his clash with Biden, already crucial given that their second debate was canceled after his Covid-19 diagnosis, could be a final opportunity to shake up the race.

But with a staggering 40 million early votes cast, the capacity of either candidate to change the dynamics of the election is becoming increasingly limited. As he geared up for the debate, Trump slammed the whole exercise as unfair, resentful about at a plan to periodically mute the candidates' mics designed to limit his belligerent interruptions and baselessly accusing moderator Kristen Welker of NBC of bias.

He is likely to have been especially infuriated by Obama's mockery and forensic dismissal of his record given his contempt for, and obsession with, the former President. Obama's appearance on the eve of a debate in which Trump's hair-trigger temper will be sorely tested was probably not a coincidence.

In another development on Wednesday, federal officials said that both Iran and Russia have obtained US voter registration information in an effort to interfere in the election. They said Islamic Republic operatives posed as the far-right Proud Boys -- a group which Trump refused to f...