WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump made a direct appeal to suburban women during a campaign rallyin the critical battleground of Pennsylvania Tuesday as he sought to use his Supreme Court nomination to reset the trajectory of the race.
“Do me a favor, suburban women, would you please like me?” Trump said in Johnstown, Pa., a Republican stronghold where Trump hopes to run up turnout in the Nov. 3 election. “I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?”
Trump started off almost immediately with criticism of Joe Biden, saying his Democratic opponent was “shot” and had “crushed” the state. Trump, who made China trade and job losses in Pennsylvania’s once-robust manufacturing sector big issues four years ago, was eager to hit the same theme as he spoke to the crowd.
The president, who spoke for a little over an hour, also spent considerable time touting Judge Amy Coney Barrett, noting he had watched her confirmation hearing in the Senate on Tuesday.
“Amy’s made a great impression,” Trump told the crowd. “She’ll be a great justice.”
The rally comes as polls show Biden with a single-digit lead in Pennsylvania, which Trump won narrowly in 2016 – becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the Keystone State since George H.W. Bush in 1988. A key demographic in polling has been suburban women, which is why Trump has crafted a message focused heavily on law and order.
The event comes in the final stretch as Trump is running out of time to recapture control of the race.
Just more than a week after he left the hospital, Trump is ramping up his campaign schedule and is now set to hold rallies in Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida this week, following the visits to Florida and Pennsylvania on Monday and Tuesday.
Trump, who threw out masks to the crowd as took the stage but who did not wear a mask himself, at one point asked the crowd how many of them had recovered from COVID-19. There was a smattering of applause.
“A lot of people,” the president asserted in reply.
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Dozens of Trump supporters formed a line at the gates of the airport hours before they opened. The president’s visit came just weeks after his son Donald Trump Jr. held an afternoon rally in Johnstown.
James Haverly, 32, was among the early risers to cheer when a young boy joined the line dressed as a mini-Trump, complete with blond wig.
“That’s a boy who knows a great man when he sees one,” Haverly said. “He wants to keep America great.”
Haverly added that he always votes against “the liberal agenda.” He called Trump the role model Republican in this day and age, and downplayed concerns about being in a crowd amid a pandemic.
“I wasn’t going to let something as small as COVID-19 stop me from seeing Trump,” he said.
Across the street, several truck drivers waved “Biden 2020” signs at the waiting rally-goers.
Chad Walters, 25, said he noticed that many Trump supporters were standing in line without face coverings. He questioned whether the event would be a breeding ground for the virus.
“This idiot just got out of the hospital after getting this virus,” Walters said. “You think he would take it seriously but instead packs his events without thinking about people first.”
Trump spoke for just over an hour during the Florida rally, showing no apparent signs of illness.
Biden campaigned in Johnstown on Sept. 30, the last stop on a train tour that began in Ohio. Speaking to supporters at a drive-in rally there at the time, Biden offered a withering attack on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, recalling the president’s past statements that it would “miraculously” disappear.
In a speech in Miramar, Fla., Biden described Trump’s as a failed leader on issues ranging from COVID to the economy.
“His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis is unconscionable, and the longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he gets,” Biden said, according to a prepared text of his speech.
The former vice president noted Cambria County’s unemployment rate in a statement Tuesday – pegged at 10.5% in August by the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and blasted Trump for failing “to protect Pennsylvanians from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Cambria County, about an 80-minute drive east of Pittsburgh, voted heavily for Trump in 2016 and it’s one of the places Republicans hope will turn out big for the president to offset potential losses in other, reliably Democratic parts of the state.