A maskless Donald Trump expressed the importance of wearing face-coverings to a packed, non-socially distanced crowd during a rally in Pennsylvania on Thursday, in which the president also admonished Joe Biden for being ‘puppet’ of domestic terrorists.
While the polls insist the presidential election this November will likely prove to be a ‘game of inches’, Trump assured a jubilant crowd gathered at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, in Latrobe, that Biden is ‘dropping like a rock in water’.
Trump attributed the Democratic nominee’s apparent inevitable demise to idea that Biden’s plan ‘is to appease the domestic terrorists and my plan is to arrest them and prosecute them.’
He went on to accuse the former Vice President of being ‘a puppet of the socialist, Marxist and the cop-hating extremists’ – a comment met with rapturous applause from the crowd.
The rally comes as Trump’s campaign is claiming new signs of momentum, including in the longtime Democratic stronghold that Trump won by less than 45,000 votes in 2016.
After months of trepidation, Trump campaign officials have been feeling encouraged in the last few weeks as Trump has responded to mass demonstrations against racial injustice by taking a hardline against protesters and painting Biden as weak.
President Donald Trump on Thursday honed the ‘law and order’ message he intends to wield against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden
Air Force One lands as crowds cheer before President Donald Trump attends a campaign event at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
The rally at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport comes as Trump’s campaign is claiming new signs of momentum, including in the longtime Democratic stronghold that Trump won by less than 45,000 votes in 2016
Trump was speaking in front of a crowd of hundreds packed into an airport hangar, where people stood closely together and few were seen wearing masks
After months of trepidation, Trump campaign officials have been feeling encouraged in the last few weeks as Trump has responded to mass demonstrations against racial injustice by taking a hardline against protesters and painting Biden as weak
Trump defended his response to the coronavirus during the rally, but spent far less time discussing the pandemic or the economic hardship it has caused across the country than other issues.
‘Before the coronavirus, this election was over,’ Trump told the raucous crowd, claiming he’d have been able to cancel campaigning this year if the virus hadn’t struck the country as hard as it has. ‘We’re rounding that turn,’ he assured.
The president was speaking in front of a crowd of hundreds packed into an airport hangar, where people stood closely together and very few wore face coverings.
Pennsylvania currently restricts indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor events to 250 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But Trump has been flouting both local restrictions and his own administration’s social distancing guidelines as he insists on campaigning in front of large crowds and tries to project the image that the virus is waning as he pushes to reopen the economy.
Trump told the crowd that he is ‘all for’ wearing masks, and urged them to be careful during the upcoming Labor Day weekend, telling them to keep at a distance and regularly wash their hand, ‘things like that’.
At the same time, Trump, who has rarely worn a mask, mocked Biden for wearing one so often.
‘Did you ever see a man who likes a mask as much as him?’ he asked, theorizing the former Vice President occasionally hangs a mask from one ear because it ‘gives him a feeling of security.’
‘If I were a psychiatrist, right, you know I´d say, “This guy’s got some big issues.” Hanging down. Hanging down,’ he said.
Trump told the crowd that he is ‘all for’ wearing masks, and urged them to be careful during the upcoming Labor Day weekend
Supporters of US President Donald Trump cheer during a campaign event at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
The rally came the same day that Biden paid a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid turmoil following the police shooting of Jacob Blake
In Pennsylvania, Biden holds a 4-point lead over Trump among registered voters and a 1- to 3-point lead among likely voters, according to a Monmouth University Poll this week. Patrick Murray, director of the poll, described the race as a ‘game of inches’ to USA Today.
The rally was held the same day that Biden paid a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid turmoil following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man who was shot in the back seven times by police.
Trump mocked Biden for visiting the city two days after he had, claiming, ‘There was nobody there. He was a little late. I was going to say, “Hey listen, we ended that problem,” but we can end it in Portland,’ he said.
Trump’s campaign believes its efforts to paint Biden as weak on crime will help Trump win back suburban voters, and especially women, who supported him in 2016 but have since soured on him.
That includes in Pennsylvania, where they argue the president is in a better position than he was in 2016, citing Democrats´ shrinking voter registration advantage. This time, they believe their get-out-the-vote operation will result in better turnout among working-class rural voters, along with improved margins among African Americans, Latinos and union supporters. At the rally, Trump announced that he had received the endorsement of the Boilermakers Local 154 in Pittsburgh.
To that end, Trump and his team have been paying frequent visits to the state as they work to build enthusiasm. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence held a Workers for Trump rally at a construction company less than 15 miles from Biden’s hometown, Scranton.
‘I know we´re not too far from our opponent´s boyhood home, but it’s Trump country now,’ Pence told the crowd.
Trump himself held a small rally last month outside Scranton just hours before Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. At the event, Trump insisted Biden would be the state’s ‘worst nightmare’ if elected president. The former vice president often spotlights his early years in the northeast Pennsylvania city as evidence of his middle-class upbringing.
‘Between the record enthusiasm for this President, our unprecedented ground game, and trends in Republican voter registrations, the Commonwealth, once again, is ready to deliver for President Trump this November,’ Nick Trainer, the Trump campaign´s director of battleground strategies, said in a statement.
Biden’s campaign remains equally confident about his prospects in the state. They have put considerable emphasis on the Pittsburgh metro area, where Democrats lost ground in 2016 but then watched Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb pull an upset in a special election.
Trump’s campaign believes its efforts to paint Biden as weak on crime will help Trump win back suburban voters, and especially women, who supported him in 2016 but have since soured on him
Still, Biden´s path in Pennsylvania is seen as more complicated than winning back Wisconsin and Michigan, the two other ‘blue wall’ states Trump won by less than 1 percentage point four years ago.
In Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump benefited from then-rival Hillary Clinton’s poor performance in the largest, heavily Democratic cities, Milwaukee and Detroit. But Clinton did relatively well in Philadelphia and won more votes that former President Barack Obama in the Philadelphia suburbs, even in defeat. That could put even more pressure on Biden to try to blunt Trump’s performance in Pennsylvania´s smaller cities and in rural areas.
Latrobe, the site of Trump’s Thursday rally, is about an hour outside Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County, which Trump won by large margins four years ago.
While Democrats still hold a significant voter registration advantage in the state, the number of new Republican registrations has far outpaced the number of new Democrats registering this cycle. Many political observers believe the state, which has many white, older voters, could become even more favorable to Republicans despite having voted Democratic from 1992 until Trump’s win in 2016.