President Donald Trump campaigned in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, telling supporters he needed a second term in the White House to ensure a successful recovery from the novel coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.
At an airport rally in Erie in the northwest corner of the state, Trump said Pennsylvania could put him over the top in the Nov. 3 election and warned that Democratic rival Joe Biden would decimate the state’s energy and manufacturing jobs.
“This is an election between the Trump super recovery, which is happening right now, and a Biden depression,” Trump told cheering supporters, who as at most of his rallies were packed shoulder to shoulder, with many not wearing masks.
“If you want open schools, an open economy and a safe, healthy, thriving country, vote for me,” he said.
Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work, has taken a toll on his re-election prospects.
Biden has criticized Trump for failing to confront the pandemic and rushing to reopen the economy and belittling safety measures such as social distancing and wearing masks. Opinion polls show more Americans trust Biden than Trump to lead on the health crisis.
The former vice president was off the campaign trail on Tuesday to prepare for his debate this week with Trump.
Trump’s trip to Pennsylvania came the day before Biden’s old boss – former President Barack Obama – will campaign in the state for the Democratic candidate, which will play an important role in deciding who wins the White House race.
With two weeks left in the race, more than 35 million Americans already have cast early ballots, according to the University of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project. That represents more than a quarter of the total vote in the 2016 presidential contest.
National opinion polls show Biden holding a wide lead over Trump, although the contest is closer in the swing states that will decide the election, including Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina.
Trump has gained ground on Biden in Pennsylvania, according to NYK Daily poll released on Monday, which showed the challenger leading by 49% to 45%, slightly narrower than a week earlier.
“If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing,” Trump said in Erie.
First lady Melania Trump, who was diagnosed recently with COVID-19 and had planned to travel with the president, did not make the trip out of “an abundance of caution” because of a lingering cough, her spokeswoman said.
Trump who was hospitalized for three nights after also contracting the coronavirus has resumed a heavy schedule of campaign travel, including rallies like the one in Pennsylvania, despite rising cases of the highly contagious disease.
Obama will campaign for Biden at a drive-in car rally in Philadelphia, the state’s biggest city, to urge supporters to vote early as the campaign hits the final stretch. It will be Obama’s first in-person campaign event for Biden, who served with him for eight years.
The visit to Pennsylvania also comes ahead of Thursday’s second and final debate between Trump and Biden, which will give the Republican president a prime-time opportunity to change the trajectory of the race.