Trump kicks off effort to counter-message Democratic convention

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President Trump kicked off a campaign Monday to counter-message the Democratic convention with dual trips to swing states Minnesota and Wisconsin, highlighting his economic agenda as he trails former Vice President Joe Biden less than three months before the election. 

Trump delivered three outdoor speeches, with familiar campaign rally tunes but smaller-than-usual crowds, that assailed Biden as a “puppet of left-wing extremists” and painted a dark picture of his opponent’s proposals on immigration, health care and the economy.

The president’s longer speeches, delivered in Mankato, Minn., and Oshkosh, Wis., were billed as remarks on jobs and the economy, but both shifted into other topics, mimicking the form and substance of his rallies that have all but ground to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to arguing without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to widespread voter fraud, Trump lauded his response to a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 people in the U.S. and projected optimism on his handling of the economy amid the coronavirus recession. He also pledged to create millions of jobs, cut regulations, end reliance on China and boost domestic drug production if reelected.

Under Biden, he argued, the country would move in the opposite direction.

“We’ll end up with one very boring socialist country that will go to hell,” Trump said coarsely of Biden, asserting later that the former vice president “would crush this unprecedented economic recovery.”

Trump at one point suggested that Biden would abolish “the American way of life.”

The president also leaned heavily on his support for law enforcement, claiming in Wisconsin that “no one will be safe in a Biden-run America.”

Monday’s trips were the first of five to battleground states this week as Trump looks to flood the airwaves with his campaign message as Democrats gather virtually to nominate Biden to take on Trump in November.

The strategy is classic Trump, who is loath to allow his adversaries the limelight. During the primaries, Trump often staged campaign rallies in states where his prospective opponents were gearing up for contests against one another in pursuit of the Democratic nomination. His remarks Monday took place just hours before the convention’s primetime programming.

Trump’s travels also underscored the different approaches to campaigning that both candidates are taking during the pandemic, with Biden largely favoring virtual appearances in lieu of in-person visits. Trump at one point during his Wisconsin remarks quipped that the outdoor venue felt “like a rally” before later deeming it a “friendly protest.”

Trump narrowly lost Minnesota while eking out a victory in Wisconsin four years ago. Now, he trails Biden in both states, according to recent polls.

Trump delivered remarks at the airport in Minneapolis immediately upon landing, going after both Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), focusing his attacks on ensuring “law and order” in American cities before flying on to Mankato.

The president repeatedly swiped at Democrats for prerecording some of the convention speeches, singling out former first lady Michelle Obama, who had excerpts of her remarks released Monday afternoon ahead of her scheduled appearance later that evening. Trump — forced to jettison plans for a large-scale convention celebration in Jacksonville, Fla., last month — said definitively he would deliver his acceptance speech from the White House.

The Democratic convention program kicks off on Monday, with virtual speeches from the likes of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).

For Trump, the trips will continue throughout the week. On Tuesday, he is slated to participate in a disaster recovery briefing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before delivering a speech on immigration and border security in Yuma, Ariz. On Thursday, he will visit a building product manufacturer in Old Forge, Pa., near Biden’s hometown on the same day the former vice president will formally accept the Democratic nomination from Delaware.

The trip to Iowa was added to Trump’s schedule late Monday, after the president said he wanted to visit the state in the wake of a windstorm that devastated the Midwest. 

The campaign media blitz isn’t limited to Trump, either. Vice President Pence is slated to deliver a speech in Darien, Wis., on Wednesday, a decision he made upon learning that Biden would not travel to Milwaukee, the original site of the convention before it was moved online due to the pandemic. Pence will also travel to Miami on Friday, marking a sojourn to another swing state, to articulate the administration’s opposition to regimes in Venezuela and Cuba. 

Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons and a top campaign surrogate, will also visit Milwaukee on Tuesday to highlight the president’s support for law enforcement as the campaign tries to tie Biden to the “defund the police” movement, something the former vice president has explicitly stated he does not support.

The Trump campaign has placed an enormous digital advertisement buy during the convention that will see it take over the banner on YouTube for 96 hours beginning Tuesday and feature prominent advertisements on U.S. news websites. It’s unclear whether the campaign plans to make similar purchases next week, when the Republican National Convention business will stream live from Charlotte, N.C.

“We’re going to flex a little muscle this week,” Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News. “It’s going to be very effective, and it’s going to be nationwide.”

Trump is trailing Biden in national and swing state polls, though a recent CNN poll indicated the race has tightened since June, with Biden leading Trump nationally by just 4 percentage points.

Other polls, including a new ABC-Washington Post poll, show Biden with a double-digit lead nationally over the president. In all four swing states that Trump is scheduled to visit this week, Biden holds a narrow lead.

Tags 2020 campaign 2020 conventions 2020 Democratic convention 2020 election 2020 republican convention Andrew Cuomo Arizona Bernie Sanders China Delaware Donald Trump Eric Trump Florida Joe Biden Kamala Harris Mankato Michelle Obama Milwaukee Minneapolis Minnesota Pennsylvania Wisconsin

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