Biden targets Trump voters in Pennsylvania with message of economic recovery, unity

Speaking to a small gathering of union members, Biden emphasized the differences between him and Trump — on the economy, their responses to the coronavirus pandemic and their ability to unite the country — and said that workers across the country had been “gutted by President Trump’s broken promises and reckless trade wars.”

“Folks, this is it. The election is here,” Biden said. “The choice couldn’t be more stark, the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

Biden accused Trump of being able only to “see the world from Park Avenue,” whereas he said his perspective was “from Scranton,” a comparison the former vice president has tried to drive home in recent weeks. He warned the crowd that Trump was seeking to destroy the Affordable Care Act, even as the coronavirus pandemic was increasing the need for access to health-care coverage, and spoke of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on working-class people.

“America deserves a president who understands what people are going through,” Biden said. “You’re facing real challenges right now, and the last thing you need is a president who exacerbates them.”

Unlike in his previous campaign stop in Arizona, Biden made no direct mention of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis or of his actions since then. Earlier Saturday, Trump had held his first public event since being hospitalized a week ago, a crowded gathering on the South Lawn of the White House where there was little social distancing among guests.

By contrast, Biden gave his speech in Erie in the parking lot outside of the training facility of the United Association Plumbers Local 27, which he had toured earlier. After he was introduced, Biden did a light jog up to the lectern wearing a disposable surgical mask, which he removed before speaking. Behind him was an array of pipes; in front of him, about three dozen attendees sat in folding chairs that were placed within white circles marking proper social distancing.

He spoke of visiting other parts of Pennsylvania and repeatedly hearing stories of workers who were suffering.

“My heart goes out to everyone struggling in this economic crisis. Simple neglect on the part of this administration,” Biden said. “Eleven-million jobs lost since the beginning of this crisis and still have not come back. Temporary layoffs have turned into permanent layoffs. We’re still down 674,000 manufacturing jobs nationwide since the crisis started and more than 40,000 manufacturing jobs here in Pennsylvania.”

Biden said he would invest $2 trillion in infrastructure and clean energy in his efforts to revive American manufacturing if elected. He promised to eliminate Trump’s tax cut for the ultrawealthy, but also promised not to raise taxes on anybody making less than $400,000.

Biden’s prospects in the battleground state brightened this weekend with a federal judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign that sought restrictions on mail voting, amid a fierce battle over how people can vote in an election transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has repeatedly attacked mail-in ballots, embraced on a new scale nationwide beacuse of concerns about the health risks of in-person voting. His campaign’s suit sought to block the use of drop boxes as receptacles for mail ballots, require ballot signatures to match voter registration records and allow nonresident poll watchers at polling places.

In a victory for Democrats — who have accused Republicans of trying to disenfranchise voters with a variety of extra hurdles — U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan of the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled Saturday that the president’s claims of potential fraud were “speculative.” Ranjan found the Trump campaign has no standing because of the lack of evidence of actual wrongdoing.

As a nod to those recent developments, Biden on Saturday warned of Trump’s efforts to encourage “chicanery” at polling places and walked attendees at his Erie event through exact steps for how to fill out and return a mail-in ballot.

He closed with a message of unity, saying he would govern “as an American president” and work as hard for those who didn’t support him as those who did.

While Biden attacks Trump’s handling of the pandemic and its devastating economic toll, Trump has continued to downplay the virus’s threat and speak of a nation already getting back on its feet: “President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America,” a new campaign ad says. Trump has also remained focused on grievances from the 2016 election, putting public pressure this week on Attorney General William P. Barr to release findings about the origins of the special counsel investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

That pressure has drawn rebukes even from former members of Trump’s administration. Former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein, who served from 2017 to 2019, predicted heading into the weekend that the Justice Department would not bow to demands from the president to go after his political enemies.

Trump and his allies allege that Democrats and other officials sought to tie him to Russia to discredit his candidacy, though evidence for this is scant.

“The Department of Justice will ignore the President’s threats against his political opponents, as it has in the past, because prosecutors who take an oath to support and defend the Constitution must uphold the rule of law,” Rosenstein tweeted late Friday night.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee Trump defeated in 2016, took aim Saturday at her former opponent’s fixation on the last election, as Trump this week resurfaced the controversy over Clinton’s emails that dogged her campaign.

“Hillary Clinton, how does it feel to live rent free in Donald Trump’s head? I wish you the best of luck in your phantom 2020 campaign,” tweeted writer Wajahat Ali.

“It’s going great,” Clinton responded. She then suggested that people donate to the Biden campaign “every time they say ‘lock her up’ or ‘crooked’ or ‘emails,’ I bet we can fund Biden-Harris straight through to November 3rd.”

Amy Gardner contributed to this report.

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