OLD FORGE, Pa. (CN) — Hours before Joe Biden was set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday, President Donald Trump took to a stage eight miles from Biden’s childhood home in Scranton to paint an image of the dystopian America he claims his opponent’s presidency would bring.
“Joe Biden is a puppet of the radical left movement that seeks to destroy the American way of life,” Trump told a crowd of around 250 in the parking lot of the Mariotti Building Products manufacturing factory, speculating that Biden planned to hike taxes by $4 trillion and “waste the money on the Green New Deal” as well as eviscerate the Second Amendment.
“They want to take away your guns,” Trump said.
He continued, claiming that Biden’s America would look similar to the scenes of widespread unrest seen in cities where civil rights protesters have flooded the streets over the last few months in reaction to the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.
“At stake in this election is the survival of our nation because we’re dealing with crazy people on the other side,” he said.
A critical swing state in the election, both presidential candidates are vying for Pennsylvania voters’ attention. In 2016, Trump won the state against Hillary Clinton by less than a percentage point, but current polling by the Morning Call/Muhlenberg College indicates Biden — who heavily pushes his story of being “born and raised” in Scranton — has a narrow lead.
According to the poll, 49% percent of likely state voters favor Biden and 45% favor Trump. It should be noted, however, the four-point gap is within the poll’s margin of error. What’s more, 53% of Pennsylvanians say that Trump does not deserve to be reelected and 51% say he has done a poor job making decisions in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In what could be an advantage for the Trump campaign, the polling also indicated that the “economy” is the most important vote for 20% of Pennsylvanians in deciding their vote for president and that 40% perceive their financial standing is better now than it was before Trump took office. Only 10% polled said their financial situation is worse off, even in light of the pandemic.
“Given the current unemployment levels, we expected some shifts in these numbers,” Chris Borick, director of Muhlenberg’s Institute for Public Opinion said in a statement. “We know many people’s economic standing has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic crisis. I believe voters are appraising their economic situation not so much in the moment but rather over the span of Trump’s presidency.”
Trump seemed aware of Pennsylvanians’ economy-influenced vote Thursday. “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs” read a campaign banner hung on the warehouse behind the president’s podium, as he emphasized that the state has gained employment opportunities during his tenure.
“They said manufacturing jobs would never come back,” Trump said, taking credit for the increase and adding that under Biden, the state would see “job loss, no money, no oil, higher taxes,” and that “the stock market would crash.”
He further undermined Biden’s identity as a Pennsylvanian and built up his own tie to the state, reminding the crowd of his time at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia.
“Tonight, Slow Joe will speak at the Democrat Convention—and I am sure he will remind us that he was born in Scranton,” Trump said. “But you know he left like 70 years ago. He was born here but he left when he was eight, nine or 10. He abandoned Scranton.”
In response to the planning of Trump’s event, Biden’s presidential campaign issued a statement earlier this week.
“This sideshow is a pathetic attempt to distract from the fact that Trump’s presidency stands for nothing but crises, lies, and division — the opposite of what Pennsylvanians are hungry for and what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris represent,” said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates.
Trump also got in a dig at the Biden VP at the event Thursday, making reference to her acceptance speech Wednesday night.
“I watched Kamala last night,” Trump commented, “and I said—I’ll take Mike [Pence].”
Biden is set to formally accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president Thursday night. He will do so remotely due to Covid-19 concerns from Wilmington, Delaware — the state he served as a senator for from 1973 through 2009. The Democratic National Convention is airing from 9 to 11 p.m.
During the Democratic National Convention, Trump has also held events in three other swing states—Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Arizona.