President Donald Trump on Monday barnstormed across Pennsylvania, holding three separate rallies where he touted his accomplishments, attacked Joe Biden’s energy plans, and criticized Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus safety restrictions.
“Biden’s plan is an economic death sentence for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Trump said in Allentown, where he stopped first in the morning before later rallies near Lancaster and Altoona. “He will eradicate your energy and send Pennsylvania into a crippling depression.”
Trump has repeatedly and falsely accused Biden of promising to ban natural gas drilling. Biden has said he will halt new leases for fracking on publicly owned lands, but will allow existing drilling operations to continue.
Trump also repeated his baseless claims that this year’s election will be rigged against him in Pennsylvania, in comments that were riddled with inaccuracies.
In Allentown, for instance, Trump suggested Wolf would be counting ballots, a task conducted by county elections workers. But Trump nonetheless said Wolf could not be trusted to do so because his administration’s coronavirus rules made it difficult for the president to find a venue for the rally.
“This is the guy that’s counting our ballots? It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work," Trump said. "So be vigilant and watch. We’re watching you, Gov. Wolf, very closely. We’re watching you.”
Trump implied he would withhold federal support for Pennsylvania if Wolf asks for it in Trump’s second term because of the dustup over finding a rally venue.
“I’m going to remember it, Tom. ‘Hello, Mister President. This is Gov. Wolf. I need help. I need help,’ ” Trump said. “You know what? These people are bad.”
The breakneck pace of the president’s rallies comes as he faces a consistent polling deficit nationally and in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, as well as a steep financial disadvantage against Biden that has left him outmatched when it comes to TV ads.
Biden, on the other hand, has flooded the airwaves while holding fewer and smaller events due to the pandemic. The former vice president said Monday that he would “shut down the virus and safely open up the economy.”
“Pennsylvanians have lost jobs and lost lives under President Trump’s failed leadership,” he said in a statement. “While working families in Pennsylvania continue to struggle, President Trump has given tax breaks to big corporations that ship jobs overseas and started a reckless tariff war with China that has cost Pennsylvania jobs.”
The president’s campaign stops a week before Election Day contrast sharply with Biden’s strategy, and appear aimed at shoring up support in places he won in 2016. Trump’s third stop Monday, for instance, was in Blair County, which he won by 46 percentage points against Hillary Clinton.
Biden, on the other hand, appeared bullish on his ability to expand the map of competitive states. In a surprise Monday campaign stop in Chester, south of Philadelphia, Biden announced he would soon be holding events in Iowa and Georgia — two states Trump won comfortably in 2016 but where polls show Biden is running a close race.
A third spike in new coronavirus cases has swept across the United States, leading to record levels of newly confirmed cases for Pennsylvania this month. The rising case counts, combined with the likelihood of sates again shutting down businesses and the increasingly slim chances of a congressional aid package, caused stocks to plummet on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average finishing the day down 650 points, or 2.3%.
But Trump on Monday complained that the pandemic was getting too much attention as Election Day nears.
“We’re rounding the turn," he said, repeating a false statement he has made for months. "All they want to talk about is COVID. By the way, on Nov. 4, you won’t be hearing so much about it.”
Medical professionals have publicly called on the president to discontinue his rallies. Seventy-five doctors led by the Committee to Protect Medicare, a health-care advocacy group, signed a letter last week asking Trump to cancel one in Erie. And on Monday, Meaghan Reid, an emergency physician in Drexel Hill, hosted a virtual news conference again asking the president to stop.
“It’s the second time we’ve asked the president to avoid visiting our state. This time we hope he understands that public health must come before politics,” Reid said. “Our most recent 14-day [case] volume is the highest ever. President Trump’s campaign rallies will increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 to more people.”
A poll released Monday found that Biden continues to hold a steady lead in Pennsylvania, one of the key states expected to determine the winner of the election. Biden has support from 52% of likely Pennsylvania voters, compared with 44% for Trump, according to the survey from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The poll also found a massive lead for Biden among early voters: 87% of Pennsylvanians who have already voted favored the Democrat, the poll found.
Tuesday is the last day to apply for mail ballots in Pennsylvania. Voters waited in the rain for hours to vote Monday at Philadelphia City Hall and other elections offices across the city, where they can request, fill out, and submit ballots in one stop.
More than 3 million Pennsylvania voters have requested mail ballots ahead of next week’s election, according to state data released Monday.
Democrats have requested 63% of the total, compared with 25% for Republicans and 12% for independent and third-party voters.
First lady Melania Trump will travel to Chester County on Tuesday, the Trump campaign announced. It will be her first major campaign event this year.
Staff writers Oona Goodin-Smith, Rob Tornoe, Andrew Seidman, Samantha Melamed, Aubrey Whelan, and Jonathan Tamari contributed to this article.