Taking aim at former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the Democratic frontrunner, President Trump campaigned Monday night in Pennsylvania, a state already emerging as ground zero of the 2020 presidential race.
“Sleepy Joe said he’s running to save the world,” Mr. Trump told a raucous audience of thousands in rural central Pennsylvania. “Well, he was going to save every country but ours.”
Massive crowds in Pennsylvania tonight. Thank you for joining me! pic.twitter.com/v1e0d0AHHo
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2019
Referring to Mr. Biden’s roots in Pennsylvania and his Senate career representing Delaware, the president told the crowd, “Biden deserted you. He left you for another state, and he didn’t take care of you because he didn’t take care of your jobs.”
The president blasted the Obama administration’s “failed” trade and energy policies, and said America can’t afford a Biden administration.
“Biden announced he’s running for president and he said it’s because foreign leaders called him up and begged him to do it,” Mr. Trump said. “Absolutely, foreign countries liked it much better [with Mr. Biden in office]. That’s what they want, so that China can continue to make $500 billion a year and more ripping off the United States.”
The president also drew loud cheers when he slammed Democrats for their “pursuit of open borders.”
“Our country is full. We don’t want people coming up here,” Mr. Trump said. “Our country is full. We want Mexico to stop. Our country is packed to the gills. We don’t want them coming up.”
Mr. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by less than 1 percentage point, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to capture the state since 1988. Together with the traditionally Democratic rust-belt states of Wisconsin and Michigan, Pennsylvania’s flipping helped propel Mr. Trump to victory over Hillary Clinton.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2019
But a Quinnipiac University poll last week showed the president trailing Mr. Biden in Pennsylvania by 11 points in a hypothetical 2020 matchup, 53% to 42%. And the Trump campaign’s internal polling shows Mr. Trump trailing Mr. Biden in all three states, Politico reported.
The president’s job-approval rating in Pennsylvania is 42 percent, despite a state unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, the lowest since 1976, a showing Mr. Trump dismissed.
“The polls had us losing Pennsylvania last time, and we won,” Mr. Trump told reporters Monday. “I expect we’ll win it this time because the coal industry, the steel industry, the car industry, they’re all doing incredibly well.”
Mr. Biden, who was born in Pennsylvania and represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate for 36 years, also understands the importance of his native state if he wins the Democratic nomination. He announced his campaign last month near Pittsburgh, chose Philadelphia as the location for his campaign headquarters. and held a campaign launch rally in the latter city Saturday.
Campaigning in Tennessee on Monday, Mr. Biden accused the president of “embracing tyrants” in his foreign policy, adding that Mr. Trump “is poking his finger in the eye of everyone one of our friends.”
“The rest of the world is looking to us,” Mr. Biden said. “They need us. They need someone to lead us.”
The president noted Monday that polls show Mr. Biden “pulling ahead” of Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and the 21 other Democratic rivals.
“Looks like Bernie Sanders is history,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “I’m only here because of Sleepy Joe and the man who took him off the 1% trash heap, President O! China wants Sleepy Joe BADLY!”
The Trump campaign is focusing heavily on Pennsylvania. Campaign officials met with state GOP leaders last month in Harrisburg to discuss strategy, amid concern that Republican candidates lost across the state in 2018.
Landing shortly in Montoursville, Pennsylvania – see everyone shortly! pic.twitter.com/R67IxP3QPL
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2019
And Vice President Mike Pence will headline a state GOP fundraiser in Hershey on June 6.
Mr. Trump held his rally in Montoursville in deeply red Lycoming County, campaigning for Republican state Rep. Fred Keller, who is heavily favored to win a special House election Tuesday against Democrat Marc Friedenberg. The two men are seeking to replace former Republican Rep. Tom Marino, who retired in January.
The president won nearly 70 percent of the vote there in the district three years ago.
While the national economy is thriving, the Rust Belt is worrisome for Republicans. Ford announced Monday that it cutting 7,000 white-collar jobs, including 2,300 in North America, prompting accusations from Democrats that Mr. Trump is breaking his promise to auto workers.
The president announced last week that he’s postponing a decision for six months on tariffs for imported autos, a levy that is opposed by the “big three” U.S. automakers.
Pennsylvania native David Urban, a lobbyist and Trump campaign adviser who helped the president win the state in 2016, said the “booming Trump economy has reversed the painful trends of the Obama era, and Pennsylvania has been a major beneficiary.”
“Under President Trump’s careful economic stewardship, Pennsylvania has added 5,000 new manufacturing jobs and created 123,600 jobs in total,” he wrote in an op-ed on Pennlive.com. “This economic renaissance is directly related to Donald Trump’s policies, including his signature achievement, the middle-class tax cuts that Congress passed in 2017.”
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