Hours before Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is set to give his acceptance speech in Delaware, President Trump was in the state of Biden’s birth, where he blasted his election rival on everything from his policy proposals to the time he spent living in Pennsylvania.
Speaking in Old Forge – just miles from Biden’s birthplace in Scranton – Trump touted his administration’s successes while mocking Biden as a “puppet of the radical left movement” who wants to destroy manufacturing jobs in the state and raise taxes.
“Joe Biden is a puppet of the radical left movement that seeks to destroy the American way of life,” Trump said. “They don’t want energy, they don’t want guns, they don’t want religion.”
Trump added: “The only thing they’re not abolishing is taxes.”
The president has spent the week touring battleground states across the country in an effort to counter the message Democrats are pushing at their convention.
Throughout their convention, the Democrats have summoned a collective urgency about the dangers of Trump as president. In 2016, they dismissed and sometimes trivialized him. Now – in speeches by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to former President Barack Obama — they are casting him as an existential threat to the country.
The tone of the convention signals anew that the fall campaign between Trump and Biden, already expected to be among the most negative of the past half century, will be filled with rancor and recrimination.
While the tradition of presidential candidates lying low during the other party’s conventions has eroded over the decades, Trump’s trip to Pennsylvania was a particularly in-your-face piece of counter-programming designed to rattle an opponent.
Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania literally was meant to hit Biden at home as the president slammed the Democratic candidate for moving from Scranton to Delaware earlier in his life. The president also hit Biden on his five decades of working in Washington – as a senator and vice president.
“He’ll remind us that he was born in Scranton, but he left like 70 years ago,” Trump said. “This Scranton stuff, he left, he abandoned Pennsylvania.”
The Biden campaign has used the fact that the candidate was born in Scranton as way to connect with working-class voters – many of whom voted for Trump in 2016. Biden was born in Scranton in 1942, but his family eventually moved to Delaware when he was 11 after the Pennsylvania manufacturing town began to fall on hard times.
Trump continued to try and tie Biden to the unrest that occurred across the country following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. Trump pushed the unconfirmed theory that Democrata are trying to rig the upcoming election through mail-in ballots.
“The only way they’re going to win is by a rigged election,” Trump said.
Biden’s speech will come hours later from his Delaware hometown and, as the culmination of the four-day convention, will surely dominate headlines and cable news chyrons. But Trump throughout the week has offered a robust slate of competing activity, holding multiple in-person events this week meant to draw a contrast with the largely virtual campaign that Biden has conducted during the coronavirus pandemic.
He visited two other battlegrounds — Wisconsin and Arizona — as well as Minnesota, one of the few blue states from 2016 that Trump’s team feels like he may have a chance to flip this fall.
But Trump’s campaign has been warily watching his standing falter in the trio of Rust Belt states that carried him to the presidency in 2016. Trump is planning more convention counterprogramming Thursday evening with an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity’s show just before Biden is to deliver his acceptance speech.
Trump did unexpectedly well in 2016 in northeastern Pennsylvania, winning Luzerne County and nearly winning in Lackawanna County, both of which have a solid registration advantage for Democrats. They bear the hallmarks of Trump country: They are whiter, with lower median incomes and fewer people with college degrees, than the rest of Pennsylvania.
The number of GOP registrations in Pennsylvania has outpaced Democrats this cycle and many political observers believe that the state, which has many white, older voters, could become stronger for Republicans. But Trump has stubbornly trailed Biden, whose team aims to return Pennsylvania to the blue column, where it had been from 1992 until 2016.
The former vice president is particularly suited in the Democratic field to carry Pennsylvania, with his deep ties to Scranton and messages catering to white working-class as well as Black voters in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Scranton is in Lackawanna County, which went for Clinton in 2016, and Biden's team hopes to increase turnout there.
The Biden campaign dismissed Trump's visit as a lame campaign gambit.
Trump “put the health of countless families across the Keystone State in danger and plunged the strong economy he inherited from the Obama-Biden administration into a tailspin,” said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates. "This sideshow is a pathetic attempt to distract from the fact that Trump’s presidency stands for nothing but crises, lies, and division.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.