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Pence casts Biden as 'Trojan horse for a radical agenda'

Vice President Pence on Friday cast the 2020 election as a choice between “freedom and opportunity” or “socialism and decline,” delivering a clear signal of the Trump campaign’s message as it gears up for the final months before Election Day.

Pence tried aggressively to tie presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenLawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list GOP lawmaker blasts incoming freshman over allegations of presidential voter fraud Haaland has competition to be first Native American to lead Interior  MORE to progressives, characterizing the recent policy recommendations of the “unity task force” convened by Biden and his former primary rival Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Sanders press secretary: 'Principal concern' of Biden appointments should be policy DeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE (I-Vt.) as radical and damaging to the country’s freedom, economy and security.

“It’s not so much whether America will be more conservative or more liberal, more Republican or Democrat, more red or blue. It’s whether America remains America,” Pence said in Wisconsin, framing the upcoming election as a “two paths” vote that will determine the country’s fate.

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“Joe Biden would set America on a path of socialism and decline,” Pence told the crowd at Ripon College, describing the Democratic candidate and former vice president as “a Trojan horse for a radical agenda.”

Pence delivered his speech in Ripon, Wis., the birthplace of the Republican Party in 1854, and the campaign promoted it heavily on Friday morning.

The Trump campaign, which underwent a shakeup earlier this week, has struggled to land a lasting blow against Biden, testing out various lines of attack in the weeks since he became the presumptive nominee.

They have seized on his verbal gaffes to call into question his mental sharpness; the president has labeled him “Sleepy Joe” and suggested he lacks the stamina for the job; and they have attempted to highlight some of his controversial policy positions during his decades in government.

But the campaign now appears to have settled on a unified message by attempting to paint Biden as a puppet of the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

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Pence warned on Friday that Biden would be little more than an “auto pen” president who would enact socialized medicine. He harped on the unity agenda unveiled by the Biden campaign earlier this month and suggested the former vice president had already caved to Sanders and his acolytes.

“I thought Joe Biden won the Democrat primaries, but looking at their unity agenda, it looks to me like Bernie won,” Pence quipped.

Pence used his remarks to criticize Biden’s positions on immigration, climate change and the economy, while also accusing Biden of voicing support for the “defund the police” movement, though Biden has explicitly expressed opposition to the effort to withdraw funding from police departments.

The campaign has seized on remarks Biden made in a recent interview where he said he supports diverting some funding to social services. Biden has also said he supports conditioning federal dollars on police departments implementing reforms.

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“Joe Biden would weaken the thin blue line that separates us from chaos,” Pence said. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

The vice president’s speech amounted to a more coherent and organized delivery of what President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE attempted to articulate earlier in the week in a widely criticized Rose Garden speech, where the president hopped from topic to topic to hammer Biden on foreign policy, his handling of the swine flu and unfounded corruption allegations about his son Hunter Biden.

It remains unclear whether the attempts to paint Biden as a radical will be enough to shift the race in Trump’s favor. Polling this week showed a solid majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 140,000 people in the U.S. and left millions of people out of work while cases in several states continue to spike.

In Wisconsin, one of the core 2020 battleground states, Biden leads Trump by 6 percentage points, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics. Biden also leads Trump in other key swing states as well as nationally.

Pence touched briefly on the Trump administration’s efforts to address the coronavirus on Friday, touting the president’s response as “unprecedented” despite the intense scrutiny over his rhetoric and handling of the virus.

His speech came as several states are seeing dangerous surges in cases. The United States on Thursday set a record with more than 75,600 new cases in a single day.

Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, said the administration would work 24 hours a day to ensure that states, hospitals and health care workers have the supplies they need to address the increase in infections.

“We are meeting this moment with American compassion and American resolve and we are also opening up America again,” he said.

Pence’s closing remarks, while intended to highlight that Trump was the right man to bring the country back to prosperity, nodded to the difficulty the campaign may have convincing the public that the administration deserves another four years given the litany of crises.

"With President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years,” Pence said, “we'll make America great again. Again."