MANITOWOC, Wis. (CN) — Returning to Wisconsin Monday afternoon, Joe Biden castigated presidential opponent Donald Trump for his response to the Covid-19 pandemic and pitched a vision of what economic recovery might look like.
After an introduction from the mayor of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, at the Green Bay exurb’s Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry, Biden led off a speech with no audience, mourning what he called “a tragic milestone” in the pandemic: 200,000 nationwide coronavirus deaths.
“What worries me now is that we’ve been living in this pandemic for so long, I worry we’re risking becoming numb to the toll it has taken,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. We can’t lose the ability to feel the sorrow, and loss.”
The Democratic contender placed blame for the deaths squarely on Trump, and warned of more to come. “We could be looking at between 178– and 200,000 lives lost, and all the president does is deliberately change the subject,” Biden continued, referencing news reports to that effect. “We just watched him hold an indoor rally with thousands of people, many of them not wearing masks despite the clear evidence that we’re putting every one of those lives at risk.”
Trump held that rally last week in Nevada, openly defying the measures local authorities had put in place to curb coronavirus transmission. While Biden’s half-hour speech was made to a camera rather than host a crowd of supporters, Trump has made a point of holding hundreds-strong rallies with few measures in place to protect against the virus.
The former vice president pivoted in his speech from the coronavirus to a criticism of Trump’s economic policies, which he derided as serving the extremely wealthy at the expense of workers. Lambasting Trump’s “tough” stance on trade, Biden said only a few wealthy companies had reaped the benefits amid his opponent’s failure to plug the flow of manufacturing jobs to China.
Biden additionally underscored New York Times reporting that Trump apparently torpedoed a drug-price deal with pharmaceutical companies by demanding that drugmakers send seniors millions of $100 cash cards with his name on them in an apparent bid to buy votes. And the former vice president found more ammunition in Trump’s plan to lower the capital gains tax at a cost of $30 million.
“The tax rate all of you pay in here is going to be higher than billionaires who make all of their money on investments,” Biden said. “Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy is going to cost billions of dollars a year, and whose hide does it come out of? It comes out of your hide.
“The simple truth is that Donald Trump ran for office saying that he would represent the forgotten man and woman of this country. And once he got into office, he forgot us.”
Biden played up his working-class background throughout the speech, frequently referencing his upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and at one point quoting media reports about his standing as the first Democratic candidate since 1984 without an Ivy League degree.
“You close the door on me, because you think I’m not good enough, guess what— I’m going to bust down that door,” he said. “It’s about time that a state school president sat in the Oval Office. Because you know what, if I’m sitting there, you’re going to be sitting there too.”
Wisconsin is a major battleground in the presidential campaign after its 2016 endorsement of Trump ended a blue streak that lasted 32 years. Biden has visited the Badger State twice this campaign; an early September trip took him to the city of Kenosha, where he visited with the family of Jacob Blake. Blake’s shooting by Kenosha police less than two weeks prior sparked widespread social unrest.
Biden has consistently led Trump in Wisconsin polls this year, though his margins have fluctuated. Recent polling showed that 52% of voters supported Biden, a 6-point lead over Trump that improves on their 4-point separation from a week prior.
Ahead of the speech, a Biden aide said the candidate was specifically targeting Obama voters who supported Trump in 2016. In a statement, the aide cited the fact that Manitowoc County favored Obama by over 7% in 2008, but Trump by 21% in 2016. The county has leaned Republican in the last two decades, and Trump’s 2016 winning margin there — 8,700 votes —was almost a third of his statewide winning margin.