With Pa. on the line, Pence talks tough during Luzerne Co. campaign stop

    WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 27: A screen displays the campaign banner for U.S. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence following Trump's acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump gave the speech in front of 1500 invited guests. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    Vice President Mike Pence visited a key area of a key state on Tuesday, as the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns trained their eyes on a pivotal 2020 battleground state.

    “We’re not too far from our opponents’ boyhood home, but it’s Trump country now,” Pence said during a late afternoon appearance in Exeter, Luzerne County, which is a short drive from Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

    Biden campaigned in Pittsburgh on Monday, where he slammed President Donald Trump’s response to the protests that have flared in Kenosha, Wisc., in the wake of another police shooting of a Black man.

    “Fires are burning and we have a president who fans the flames, rather than fighting the flames,” Biden said. “Does anybody believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?”

    ‘Fires are burning and we have a president who fans the flames’: Biden slams Trump in Pa. campaign stop

    Trump flipped Luzerne County in 2016, turning it into a case study of how Democrats had lost touch with working class white voters. The northeastern Pennsylvania county is again believed to be determinative in 2020.

    In a conference call with reporters on Monday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and other Democratic officials excoriated the White House’s response to the anti-racism protests, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic turmoil that it engendered.

    “Most families in our region … are concerned about two basic crises: the virus and jobs. And both are on the minds of families across the board,” Casey said. “No one is safe from this virus. The least we should have at a time of crisis, is a president who would have a plan for both. The Trump-Pence ticket has neither. There is no jobs plan and no plan for the virus.”

    Luzerne County notched an unemployment rate of 16.1 percent in June and July, above the statewide rate of 13.7 percent in July, Casey said. The unemployment rate in neighboring Lackawanna County was 14.5 percent in July, Casey told journalists.

    “I find it ironic that the current vice president is coming to Luzerne County to talk about Pennsylvania workers,” said state Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, who also participated in the call. “The current administration has been no friend to Pennsylvania workers.”

    Trump will campaign in Westmoreland County on Thursday. Check the Capital-Star for coverage.

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press