In back-to-back rallies in Wisconsin today, Donald Trump continued to insist the nation is turning the corner on COVID-19, while Dem rival Joe Biden accused the president of surrendering to the virus.
The rallies provided a sharp contrast in the approach to COVID-19 precautions by the two campaigns. Both spoke to open-air rallies. But Trump’s included backers shoulder-to-shoulder in a traditional campaign rally setting as he insisted Dem-run states need to “open up.” Biden, meanwhile, wore a mask as he addressed about 50 people, including media. Backers sat in folding chairs inside white circles meant to keep them socially distanced.
Local media estimated a “crowd of thousands” attended Trump’s event.
During his ninth visit to the state this year, Trump warned in Green Bay his Dem rival “wants to lock you down in your homes.”
“He’s ready to lock it down,” Trump said. “I mean, you guys are already in a lockdown, so you might not notice it as much. Hey, governor, you’ve got to open up your state here. You’ve got to open it up,” Trump said.
Evers has issued a statewide mask mandate, but an appeals court has placed on hold his administration’s limits on indoor, public gatherings. Any other restrictions on businesses and schools have been issued by local authorities.
During a stop in Milwaukee, his third visit to Wisconsin this year, Biden knocked Trump for his unsubstantiated claim that doctors are overreporting COVID-19 deaths so they are paid more. He urged people to wear masks, saying it’s a life-saving measure.
“For God’s sake, it’s a patriotic duty,” Biden said. “You’re wearing the mask not to save yourself, but to save your neighbor.”
Most of Biden’s speech hammered the president on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic
and the economy. But he also included several references to the impact of the pandemic and economic downturn on the Badger State. He said the nearly 2,000 who have died in Wisconsin, including 600 in Milwaukee County, are “memorialized by an empty chair at breakfast.”
Wisconsin reported 5,096 new COVID-19 cases today, the second time the state surpassed 5,000 in a single day. The state also logged 24 new deaths due to the virus, bringing the toll to 1,972.
The seven-day average for single-day cases is a record 4,230, which has increased more than 500 percent in two months.
He also accused Trump of offering an overly optimistic picture of the pandemic to Americans.
“Last week when I debated the president, he said ‘we’re rounding the corner, it’s going away, we’re learning to live with it,’” Biden said. “We’re not learning to live with it. You’re asking us to learn to die with it.”
Speaking about the economic downturn that has come with the pandemic, Biden told the crowd that even before the virus under the Trump administration, Wisconsin’s dairy industry had fared poorly alongside its manufacturing sector. He said that between 2017 and 2019, the state has lost 15 percent of its dairy farms, and lost more dairy farms this year than any other state. He also said the state is down 20,000 manufacturing jobs.
Biden also forecast that Donald Trump would take away attendees’ health care by making it unaffordable for working people, warning that 2.5 million Wisconsinites with a pre-existing condition wouldn’t be able to afford health care if the Affordable Care Act is overturned.
“Donald Trump thinks healthcare is a privilege. I think it’s a right,” he said.
And he briefly touched on the summer of protest that erupted in response to incidents of police violence in Minneapolis, Louisville, and Kenosha.
“Protesting is not burning and looting. But [protests] are cries for justice,” he said. “The names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake will not be forgotten soon, not by me, not by us, not by this country.”
Speaking at Green Bay’s airport, Trump again claimed he “saved” Kenosha from civil unrest in the wake of the police shooting there of Jacob Blake over the summer.
Trump claimed if he “didn’t activate immediately, Kenosha would not be there any longer.” Gov. Tony Evers approved the initial deployment of National Guard troops after the first night of violent protests and then upped the presence after the second night. The White House offered to send in federal agents to help with the violence, but Evers declined.
Trump told backers he wished Evers would have asked him sooner to intervene.
“You sometimes have to meet force with force,” Trump said. “You can’t just sit back and watch it take place.”
Trump said the economy is in a “super V” recovery, touting recent data that the national GDP grew by 33 percent, though it still lags behind pre-coronavirus levels.
He also warned attendees this fall’s presidential election is a choice between a “Trump super boom” and a “Biden depression,” arguing his Dem presidential opponent’s promises to raise taxes on wealthy individuals would cripple the economy even further.
“We’re going to make America great again, again,” Trump told a crowd of supporters. “These people are stone-cold crazy. You have to go out and you have to vote.”
The latest Marquette University Law School Poll, considered the gold standard of polling in Wisconsin, had Biden with a 5-point edge on Trump. Meanwhile, the latest FiveThirtyEight polling average has Trump behind Biden in the state by 8.5 points. But Trump told backers that his pollsters tell him he’s essentially tied with Biden. He claimed there’s a “hidden Trump voter” group of people loyal to the president but who refuse to admit that to pollsters.
Ahead of Trump’s rally today, the national Dem Party unveiled a new billboard in Green Bay slamming Trump’s COVID-19 response, which has resulted in at least 93 deaths in Brown County this year.
“Voters across Green Bay won’t be able to miss the message: Trump was too incompetent and ineffective to respond to the coronavirus, and his failure has cost too many Wisconsinites their lives and livelihoods,” said DNC spokesperson Maddie McComb in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, and Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, and state GOP Chair Andrew Hitt all attended the rally. And Trump also touted former Green Bay Packers Quarterback Brett Favre’s endorsement this week, calling the football star “tough as hell and really talented.”
Trump praised Johnson for his investigations into Biden’s son’s business dealings and for his defense of Trump during his impeachment trial earlier this year.
“You’re lucky you have him, he’s a fantastic man doing an incredible job,” Trump said.
Biden closed by saying he’s never been more optimistic about American prospects.
“The only thing that can tear America apart is America itself,” he said. “That’s what Donald Trump is out to do.”
By Royce Podeszwa, Caroline Kubzansky and WisPolitics.com staff