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Trump tries to upstage Biden on big night with speech in his home state

Democrat is 'worst nightmare', president tells people of Pennsylvania

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Pointing the way: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Dr Jill Biden at the Democratic National Convention from the Chase Centre in Wilmington, Delaware. PHOTO: GETTY

Pointing the way: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Dr Jill Biden at the Democratic National Convention from the Chase Centre in Wilmington, Delaware. PHOTO: GETTY

Pointing the way: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Dr Jill Biden at the Democratic National Convention from the Chase Centre in Wilmington, Delaware. PHOTO: GETTY

On Joe Biden's big day, President Donald Trump was planning to show up in his rival's old backyard.

Yesterday afternoon Mr Trump was staging an event just outside the former vice president's birthplace in Scranton, Pennsylvania, mere hours before Mr Biden was due to accept the Democratic nomination for president.

The political tradition of a presidential candidate lying low during the other party's convention has eroded over the decades.

But - to the private delight of Mr Trump's advisers - his trip looked to be a particularly in-your-face piece of counter-programming designed to rattle an opponent.

The campaign said Mr Trump's speech would cover "a half-century of Joe Biden failing America".

The event points to the importance of Pennsylvania as a battleground state - and to the urgency of the president's effort to close the gap in the polls.

"Joe Biden is no friend of Pennsylvania - he is your worst nightmare," Mr Trump would say according to excerpts from his speech.

Mr Biden's speech was due hours later from his Delaware hometown and will surely dominate headlines and cable news ticker titles.

But Mr Trump has offered a robust slate of competing activity, holding multiple in-person events this week meant to draw a contrast with the largely virtual campaign that Mr Biden has conducted during the Covid pandemic.

He visited two other battlegrounds - Wisconsin and Arizona - as well as Minnesota, one of the few blue states from 2016 that Mr Trump's team feels like he may have a chance to flip this autumn.

But Mr Trump's campaign has been warily watching his standing falter in the trio of Rust Belt states that carried him to the presidency in 2016.

The so-called Blue Wall of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin was meant to provide electoral college insurance for Hillary Clinton.

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Instead it all broke for Mr Trump by slim margins.

Many in the Trump campaign have all but written off Michigan, a state battered by the virus, and whose governor has repeatedly fought with the president.

But advisers believe Pennsylvania, like Wisconsin, remains in play and Mr Trump will be returning to the northeast of the state.

Mr Trump did unexpectedly well there in 2016, winning Luzerne County and nearly winning in Lackawanna, both of which have a solid registration advantage for Democrats.

These bear the hallmarks of Trump country: They are whiter, with lower median incomes and fewer people with college degrees, than the rest of Pennsylvania.

But Mr Trump has stubbornly trailed Mr Biden, whose team aims to return Pennsylvania to the blue column, where it had been from 1992 until 2016.

The former vice president has deep ties to Scranton and aims messages at white working-class voters and black voters in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The Biden campaign dismissed Mr Trump's visit as a lame campaign gambit.

"This sideshow is a pathetic attempt to distract from the fact that Trump's presidency stands for nothing but crises, lies, and division," said Mr Biden's spokesman Andrew Bates.

But advisers believe Mr Trump has begun to reverse that momentum in part due to his efforts to link Mr Biden to radical left elements of the Democratic Party.

Mr Trump has also been campaigning as an avid supporter of fracking in Pennsylvania, where it has unleashed an oil and gas boom.

Mr Trump and TV ads by a pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, accuse Mr Biden of wanting to ban fracking. Mr Biden calls that entirely false and has said a ban would likely be politically and legally impossible.

He says he wants to bar permits for new oil and gas drilling on public lands, which account for less than a tenth of production.

It comes as Mr Trump sought to distance himself from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was arrested yesterday on charges of defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a fundraising effort to support building Mr Trump's border wall.

Mr Bannon, who played a big role in shaping the president's 2016 campaign, was fired by Mr Trump in August 2017.

"I know nothing about the project, other than I didn't like what I read about it," Mr Trump said of Mr Bannon's fundraising efforts.


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