OLD FORGE, Pa. — President Donald Trump sought to depict rival Joe Biden as out of touch with the working class as he campaigned near the former vice president’s Pennsylvania hometown Thursday and delivered real-time criticism of the Democrat’s speech.
“In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks. He will never change, just words!” Trump wrote on Twitter as Biden spoke.
Biden’s campaign has made Trump the central theme of this week’s Democratic convention, producing a program that featured a series of speakers offering blistering criticisms of his presidency. Trump has served as a one-man rebuttal team, including firing off real-time responses during former President Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday.
Trump, speaking in an outdoor lot at Mariotti Building Products on a stage surrounded by building lumber and truck tractors, said he would be paying attention to Biden’s big night.
“He left. He abandoned Pennsylvania. He abandoned Scranton,” Trump said. “But he spent the last half-century in Washington selling out our country and ripping off our jobs.”
Biden was born in Scranton and moved to Delaware with his family as a child after his father struggled to find work, a story he frequently tells to explain his understanding of what it means to struggle economically. Biden represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years.
“Biden is the candidate of these privileged liberal hypocrites,” Trump said.
Trump called into Fox News for a nearly 30-minute interview Thursday night as the convention was well underway, telling viewers that he planned to watch Biden’s acceptance speech.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to watch all of it,” Trump joked. “I’ve watched a lot of hate last night and the night before.”
Trump, who relished the large rally crowds that previously packed arenas, has been sidelined from campaigning since the coronavirus outbreak began in March. He held a rally in June in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that came under scrutiny for not implementing enough safety precautions. A rally planned in New Hampshire in July was canceled.
But as the Democrats kicked off their virtual convention Monday, Trump filled his schedule with scaled-down campaign events, bucking the political norm of lying low during the opposing party’s convention. This week he has held events in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona and Pennsylvania — all states important to his re-election.
Pennsylvania’s coronavirus guidelines limit indoor gatherings to 25 people and 250 people outdoors, along with social distancing and mask requirements in public spaces.
The campaign restricted the number of people allowed to enter the outdoor lot and placed chairs for attendees to sit at a distance. Some attendees wore Trump-themed masks. Instead of the usual ticket sign-up on the campaign website, supporters were directed to RSVP to get a “replay” of Trump’s remarks.
“How’d you get in?” Trump joked with attendees, saying they were “special friends of a group of people who have done a really good job.”
Still, hundreds of people lined the street in front of Mariotti Building Products in the morning in anticipation of Trump’s arrival. Few were wearing masks, and there was no social distancing as supporters and some protesters jockeyed for space on the narrow sidewalk.
“They were not socially distanced, I can tell you,” Trump said.
Trump made a rare unannounced visit after his speech, stopping by Arcaro & Genell Restaurant before heading back to Washington.
When asked what prompted the stop, Trump responded: “‘Cause they have great pizza, supposedly have the best pizza. We’ll let you know about it in a half-hour.”
The president repeated baseless accusations that Democrats were “trying to steal” the election and pointed to the number of people lining the street as evidence that he could not lose.
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“The only way they’re going to win is by a rigged election. I really believe that,” he said. “I saw the crowd outside.”
Trump, who beat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point four years ago, has spent a significant amount of time in the state as president. He has visited Pennsylvania nearly 20 times since he was sworn in, and he was in nearby Scranton as recently as March.
Trump lost Lackawanna County, where he visited Thursday, but he outperformed previous Republican candidates.
“This was all Democrat until I came along,” Trump said.
Biden has a 6-point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average tracker.
“I’ll be back to Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “That I promise.”
Caroline Vakil contributed.