Trump back on crucial Pennsylvania campaign trail as he picks bizarre fight with ‘60 Minutes'

Another day, another Trump enemy. This time it’s 60 Minutes and CBS reporter Leslie Stahl

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Thursday 22 October 2020 17:37 BST
Key moments from Trump's rally in Pennsylvania

Donald Trump made his seventh stop in Pennsylvania in as many weeks as he delivered dark-but-familiar warnings about his Democratic rivals hours after finding a new foe in 60 Minutes as he sought a battleground he described as the key to a possible second term.

“We’re going to win. I think we’re going to win so big,” the president told another large and densely packed rally, this time in Erie as he tries to keep a county with the same name in his column. “If Biden wins, your borders are gone, which means your healthcare is gone. … Which means your country is gone.”

That was part of his mostly on-repeat sales pitch for a second term, which is mainly a laundry list of personal grievances and digs at his Democratic opponents rather than promises he intends to pursue for the American people, not even his conservative base, during a possible second term. In fact, his re-election pitch is more a string of insults than a policy platform.

One example was part of his remarks on Tuesday evening, when he opted to take a shot at the state’s Democratic leadership, rather than describe how his administration would defeat the spreading-again coronavirus if given more time to do so. “What the hell is going on in your state?” he said. “If you want depression and gloom and despair, then vote for ‘Sleepy Joe Biden.’ And boredom.”

Threats also are a part of the re-election message. After reportedly walking out of a White House interview earlier, Mr Trump smirked when he said “wait until you see what we do to them.” Another day, another new enemy. 

The president has become a regular staple on the Pennsylvania campaign circuit.

Though some GOP political strategists have said Mr Trump cannot win a second term without his new home state of Florida, he signalled he views the Keystone State, and its 20 electoral votes, as the key.

“If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing,” he said in Erie.

Tuesday night’s rally was his 10th trip of the year, and his seventh since 1 September. His last stop there was on 10 October in Johnstown, a rural city in the heart of the state’s southwestern area – Trump Country – in an attempt to drive up conservative turnout there to offset a potentially large number of liberal votes in urban centres.

This stop was all about trying to keep a swing county in his column. Mr Trump won Erie County in 2016, but only by just over 1 percentage point.

All those Keystone State trips appear to be paying off. Mr Biden led there by 7.3 per cent on 12 October, according to RealClearPolitics’ average of polls. But Mr Trump has come storming back, and has pulled within 3.7 points, according to the most recent average.

William Galston, a former Clinton White House aide now with the Brookings Institution, has published his four possible Election Night scenarios. Under one, which he dubbed “The Nightmare,” Pennsylvania would be even closer – too close to call, in fact.

“Suppose President Trump cuts Biden’s lead to 3 points. Although Nevada probably would fall into his hands, Pennsylvania would be too close to call. In this event, the state that most observers believe has the highest potential for electoral delays and snafus in counting mail-in ballots would determine the outcome of the race,” Mr Galston wrote.

“While it may not reach the level of rancour following the disputed 1876 election – when the post-Civil War Reconstruction era came to its bitter end – it could make the disputed 2000 election look tame by comparison,” he added.

One of the voting blocs with which the president has been losing ground is college-educated suburban women. They voted for him in 2016 but broke for Democratic congressional candidates two years later. He again insulted a high-profile woman on Tuesday night.

"There'll be a woman president, you cannot let that happen," Trump says of Kamala Harris, the California Democrat who is Mr Biden’s running mate. (He has said before his backers cannot allow her to become the first female American commander in chief.)

Mr Trump, donning a dark overcoat before another big, dense crowd and Air Force One as a backdrop, predicted, if he wins a second term “normal life will finally resume.”

He hit Mr Biden hard on his mixed messages on fracking, an energy extraction practice used to collect natural gas and oil. Mr Trump had his staff play a video on a large screen playing clips of his rival and running mate Kamala Harris making spoken pledges to ban fossil fuels and fracking, which is used in Pennsylvania and other Rust Belt States, as well as Texas.

He called the election a choice between “a Trump super-recovery and a Biden depression,” saying the former VP does not know how to rebuild the post-coronavirus economy.

As he does at every rally, he predicted a Biden administration would oversee “a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen.”

The president started his day with another wild Fox & Friends interview, during which he said Mr Biden would, if elected, “take away God,” an apparent warning about religious freedoms for Christians under a Democratic administration. (Mr Biden is Roman Catholic.)

He also had a spat with CBS News reporter Leslie Stahl, who was at the White House to tape a sit-down for Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes. Mr Trump reportedly abruptly ended the interview – then tweeted his reasoning. Once again, he is trying to describe the election process as “rigged” and “unfair,” tilted in Mr Biden’s favour by Washington’s political and media elites.

“I am pleased to inform you that, for the sake of accuracy in reporting, I am considering posting my interview with Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, PRIOR TO AIRTIME! This will be done so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about…” he wrote.

Mr Trump added in a follow-on tweet: “...Everyone should compare this terrible Electoral Intrusion with the recent interviews of Sleepy Joe Biden!”

As for the former vice president, his campaign called a “lid” around 9.30am, with Mr Biden again off the campaign trail to prepare for his second and final debate with the president on Thursday night.

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