OLD FORGE, Pa. — Hours before Joe Biden was to accept the Democratic presidential nomination, President Donald Trump rolled into the ex-vice president’s backyard, where he argued that putting Biden and running mate Kamala Harris in the White House would be catastrophic for America.
“Joe Biden is no friend of Pennsylvania,” Trump said during an hour-long appearance at Mariotti Building Products in Old Forge. “… He’s your worst nightmare.”
A long train of Trump’s supporters, and a few protesters, lined the street leading up to where the President spoke. However, with social distancing guidelines, only about 300 were able to make it into Mariotti Building Supplies for the hour-long, freewheeling speech.
With more than 170,000 Americans dead and 5.5 million COVID-19 cases, the most in the world, Trump boasted of many of his accomplishments, including moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. That is something other presidents have talked about, but never accomplished. He also brought up the administration’s role in improving the relationship between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. He boasted about record stock market numbers, and jobs.
Trump bragged about the 500 miles of wall that he expects to be built by the end of the year along the country’s 1,900-mile border. The wall was his most famous campaign promise in 2016.
However, his speech was also peppered with easily provable falsehoods. For example, when introducing local politicians, he highlighted former GOP congressman Lou Barletta.
“Maybe he would be here forever,” Trump said, “But he decided to do something else.”
Barletta gave up his Hazleton-area U.S. House seat to run against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in 2018. He lost.
He also said New Zealand and South Korea had “massive breakouts [Wednesday]” of COVID-19. The South Pacific island nation had six new cases on Monday, the same number of new cases Luzerne County did. South Korea had more than 200 cases twice in the last five days.
Trump focused his ire on Biden, who was born in Scranton.
“He left,” Trump said. “He abandoned Pennsylvania. He abandoned Scranton.”
Biden was a child when his family left Scranton after his father lost a job.
Trump did list several of Biden’s policy positions that he claims will hurt Pennsylvanians and the state’s economy. He created a dystopian image of what America would look like under a Biden presidency.
He knocked Biden for his roles in trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump said those policies helped drive jobs away from Pennsylvania. He focused on any working class voters in the audience.
“Unions are fine, a lot of Republicans don’t want me to say that,” he said. “They’re fine.”
He continued in that vein, telling a crowd filled with people in American flag apparel, Make America Great Again hats, that the Obama-Biden administration cost union workers their best health care plans.
The president riffed on several other topics, seeming to be in a good mood, even though the sun was in his eyes. He was also hours from finding out Steve Bannon, who helmed part of his 2016 campaign and was a senior advisor, was arrested for an alleged scam based on Trump’s wall. Trump also sowed doubt about the accuracy of some polls during his speech.
Cynthia Rejoyce Lindsey, who drove two hours from New Jersey to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” Thursday, was among Trump’s fans in the crowd.
She sang for Trump when he was a candidate.
“It’s an honor,” she said. Her family is all Democrats, and they’ve teased her about her singing for the president. But, she’s a fan.
“He’s someone I love and admire,” she said.
Trump is clearly counting on the supporters who showed up Thursday. He talked about the importance of the state in his plans on winning reelection.
“This used to be all Democrats until I came along,” he said, “That I promise.”
Patrick Abdalla covers Northeastern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow him on Twitter @PaddyAbs.