SUMMIT TWP., Pa. — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden touched down in a battleground county in a battleground state on Saturday, pitching his plan to build jobs, making college affordable, and to not raise taxes on families making less than $400,000 a year.
“This is the moment to put country before party,” Biden said during an appearance at a union plumbers training center in Erie County.
Biden’s campaign restricted the event to only a small number of press outlets due to COVID-19 concerns. Biden and staffers wore masks, and about three dozen white circles, with folding chairs in each, were drawn to ensure social distancing requirements were met.
Biden supporters gathered outside of the plumbers union building waving flags, and chanting, “Lock him up.” Trump supporters also attended, responding with chants of, “Four more years.” Strong law-enforcement presence kept them outside of the event.
Speaking on themes familiar from other campaign stops, as well as his remarks during the first presidential debate last week, Biden told supporters who watched via live-stream, that Americans have suffered from leadership that doesn’t understand what working class families go through — and vowed to do better.
“America deserves a president who understands what they’re going through,” Biden said. “The last thing it needs is a president who exacerbates the problem.”
Biden called out Trump’s “negligent” handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, “The president, a little while ago, said, ‘it is, what it is,’ when he was told 100,000 people a day were dying. Well it is what it is because he is who he is.”
Through midday Saturday, state health officials had confirmed 171,050 cases in all 67 counties since the start of the pandemic, according to state Health Department data, with 8,344 confirmed fatalities. The Associated Press reported Saturday that 1,742 people tested positive for the virus, the highest case count since the 1,751 cases recorded on April 10.
Biden criticized Trump’s bail-outs and tax cuts of the top 1 percent and major corporations, “The truth is the president can only see the world from Park Avenue. I see it from Scranton. I see it from Claymont [Delaware]. You all see it from Erie. That’s why my program for building back better is focused on building jobs.”
Biden says his plan will create 18.6 million jobs in four years. 7 million more jobs than Trump’s economic plan, and a $1 trillion more than Trump’s plan.
He says he will freeze tax increases on the working class, and raise taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 a year so that they can, “finally pay their share.” In addition, his plan focuses on raising taxes on America’s major corporations, millionaires and billionaires, so that, “we can grow the middle class back, and make sure that everyone comes along this time.”
Turning Erie blue, after Trump won the county in 2016 is important for Biden’s plan to win Pennsylvania in November. Trump narrowly carried the county, 48-46 percent, over Hillary Clinton four years ago.
Biden homed in his message to target Pennsylvania voters, promising not to, “ban fracking period,” in the state.
He further emphasized his strong support of union jobs saying, “We’re going to build back union jobs, manufacturing and technology jobs making sure the future is made in America, and support building back strong infrastructure laid down by plumbers and pipe feeders here in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
He promised, “One million more good, union jobs, like the local ones here.”
Biden highlighted Erie’s battle for a community college saying, “When Erie opens the first community college Pennsylvania has seen in 27 years we’re going to make sure that every student who qualifies will attend that community college for free.”
According to Biden, this means that students from families making less than $125,000 will qualify for free college tuition.
Focusing on housing, Biden said that first-time home-buyers will be granted 15,000 in tax credits to assist in making down-payments.
Before his address, Biden toured the plumbers union training facility, meeting with local plumbers union members. He was joined by Pennsylvania state Senate candidate Julie Slomski.
As Biden touched down in Erie, voting was already underway and ballots were in the mail to Pennsylvania voters who have opted to vote by mail due to COVID-19 concerns. Erie county has seen a record number of mail-in ballot requests — 28,656 — so far for the 2020 general election, the Erie Times-News reported, citing data from the Erie County Department of Elections and Voter Registration.
Voters identifying as Democrats outnumber Republicans in requesting mail-in voters 3 to 1 according to department officials. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27 in Pa.
Nationally, polling averages as calculated by polling tracker FiveThirtyEight put Biden at a 10.1 percent lead over Trump. In Pennsylvania, according to the tracker, Biden has a 7.1 percent lead on Trump.
The Democrat’s appearance in Erie County marks Biden’s first visit to the area since 2009, the Times-News reported.
Correspondent Shayma Musa covers Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow her on Twitter @Musa_Shayma.