Donald Trump accused Democratic candidate Joe Biden of wanting to cripple natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania during the president’s first visit to the battleground state since recovering from Covid-19.
Trump said during a Tuesday evening campaign rally in Johnstown that Biden would abolish hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, something that the Democratic nominee has repeatedly denied.
“One of the most important issues for Pennsylvania is the survival of your fracking industry. Joe Biden has repeatedly pledged to abolish fracking,” Trump said. “He’s a liar, O.K. He’s a liar.”
Trump denigrated Biden as “the single-worst candidate in the history of American politics,” but added: “That puts more pressure on me. Can you imagine if you lose to a guy like this?”
Trailing Biden in the polls and looking to drive up support among white, working-class voters that helped deliver him Rust Belt states in 2016, Trump has turned to the fracking issue as a last-ditch measure to make up ground. Biden holds a lead of 7 percentage points in Pennsylvania, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls.
Trump and his supporters have seized on a statement Biden made in a March debate that suggested he supported a fracking ban. But Biden’s campaign has clarified he doesn’t support an outright ban, and the Democrat’s platform doesn’t include one.
The president resumed campaign travel with a rally in Florida on Monday, one week after he was released from the hospital having contracted the coronavirus. Trump is depending on an aggressive slate of rallies in key states to reverse his deficit against Biden.
Trump boasted at the Florida rally that he felt “so powerful” and that he wanted to walk into the crowd and “kiss everyone.” He has events planned this week in Iowa, North Carolina, Florida again and Georgia.
Voters have rated Trump’s response to the pandemic negatively, however, and the president has lost ground to Biden nationally and in key swing states. The president trails his opponent by 10 percentage points on average nationally, according to RealClearPolitics.
The president needs to drive up his margins in places like Johnstown if he hopes to win Pennsylvania again in 2020. The coal and steel-producing area was once a Democratic bastion, but Trump won the county where Johnstown is located in 2016 by almost 38 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.
The airport where Trump will speak is named after the late John Murtha, a Democratic congressman who represented the region for decades. But Republicans have steadily made gains and have recently overtaken Democrats in the county in voter registration.
Biden has spent ample time in the state, playing up his blue-collar upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in order to make inroads with those voters.
The former vice president visited Johnstown on Sept. 30. He plans to participate in an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, in place of his canceled second debate with Trump. Biden also stopped in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.
Trump beat Clinton by roughly 44,000 votes in Pennsylvania in 2016, marking the first time since 1988 a Republican nominee won the state. His victory there helped shatter the so-called blue wall of Great Lakes and Midwestern states that for decades had boosted Democratic candidates, which Biden is now trying to rebuild.
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