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Melania Trump focuses on coronavirus in return to campaign trail

Melania Trump focuses on coronavirus in return to campaign trail
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First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpPresident says Trump Jr. doing 'very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis Trumps to spend Thanksgiving at White House instead of traveling to Florida Chelsea Clinton blames Trump for Secret Service officers in quarantine MORE hit the campaign trail on Tuesday to advocate for her husband’s reelection, praising his response to the coronavirus pandemic and taking aim at Democrats and the media during a rare public address.

The first lady’s appearance in Atglen, Pa., represented her first major event on the campaign trail this year. It comes as Trump, facing a significant deficit with female voters, seeks to shore up support in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, which helped propel him to victory in 2016.

Melania Trump echoed much of the Trump campaign’s rhetoric, casting her husband as a leader who will shepherd the country through an economic recovery while warning that Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE would implement a “socialist agenda” that would “destroy America and all that has been built in the past four years.”

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The first lady, who along with her husband was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early October, extended condolences to those who have lost loved ones due to the coronavirus, before pivoting to a rosy assessment of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

“This Administration chooses to keep moving forward during this pandemic, not backward,” she said in prepared remarks. “Our Administration remains 100 percent supportive of ensuring our nation is equipped with all the medical supplies we need, and getting a vaccine developed and distributed as safely and quickly as possible.”

The first lady accused Democrats of divisive and confusing rhetoric on vaccines and the pandemic. She also criticized them for focusing on a “sham impeachment” earlier this year when COVID-19 first began to spread across the globe. Echoing her husband, she targeted the media, accusing outlets of bias and overly negative coverage that relies on “anonymous sources or angry ex-employees.”

The first lady appeared at the event as her husband held three rallies in as many states on Tuesday. She was introduced by former White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? MORE, who noted that Melania Trump made a similar appearance in the Keystone State five days before Election Day in 2016.

The venue – a converted barn decorated with a large “Make America Great Again” sign and American flags – was packed with Trump supporters, many of them wearing masks but not able to social distance. Members of the crowd periodically shouted “Four more years” and “We love you” during her speech.

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The Trump campaign has devoted significant attention to Pennsylvania as Election Day – now one week away – draws nearer. Melania Trump’s appearance came one day after Trump headlined three rallies in Pennsylvania, a state he narrowly won in 2016 but where recent polls show he is trailing Biden. 

Following her remarks, the first lady made an unscheduled stop at the Republican Committee of Lancaster County and delivered pizza to Trump campaign volunteers.

Trump is performing badly among female voters in Pennsylvania and other battlegrounds. It’s unclear if the first lady’s stop will at all help buoy Trump with that sector of the electorate.

On Tuesday, Melania Trump cast the president, who has a history of controversial and personal attacks on women, as a supporter and champion of working mothers. 

At one point, she acknowledged that she doesn’t always “agree” with the way he says things, but insisted it was important to Trump that he “speaks directly to the people he serves.” The remark prompted laughter from the crowd.

A recent Fox News poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania found women backing Biden over Trump 54 percent to 42 percent. 

Another survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Elections Research Center of battlegrounds Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin found Trump losing female voters there to Biden by 20 percentage points.   

Trump has struggled to articulate an effective message to women in the closing months of his campaign. He has explicitly reached out to suburban women by highlighting his decision to eliminate an Obama-era rule aimed at stopping housing discrimination and asserting that a Biden administration would result in the destruction of American suburbs all together.

“Women of the suburbs, you must love me, I can tell you. I’m saving you something. I’m saving, I got rid of the regulation that was going to destroy your suburbs, unless you like crime, which you don’t like, right?” Trump told a crowd at a rally Monday in Martinsburg, Pa.

He has also downplayed the pandemic, claiming that the U.S. is “rounding the turn” on the virus despite rising cases in states across the country and complaining about the media’s constant coverage of the pandemic.

“Until November 4th., Fake News Media is going full on Covid, Covid, Covid. We are rounding the turn. 99.9%,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

The first lady’s remarks on Tuesday afternoon provided a contrast to Trump’s rhetoric, as she spoke about the current pain individuals are feeling from the virus at the outset of her speech.

“Like many of you I have experienced the firsthand effects of COVID-19, not only as a patient but as a worried mother and wife. I know there are many people who have lost loved ones or know people who have been forever impacted by this silent enemy,” she said. “My family’s thoughts and prayers are with all of you through this difficult time.”

—Updated at 6:09 p.m.