In his first official campaign event targeted at a Wisconsin audience, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took aim at Republican President Donald Trump over his handling of the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Streaming online from his home in Delaware due to limitations placed on large gatherings amid the pandemic, the former vice president said Trump could not be trusted to bring the nation out of the economic crisis created largely by the coronavirus.
“Why would anybody trust this man to bring back the economy now? He thinks he’s a builder, but he’s a destroyer of everything he touches,” Biden said. “Wisconsin has the power to pick a different path.”
He was joined in the online event streamed on YouTube by Wisconsin Democrats including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee.
Earlier in the day, Biden attended an online discussion with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, where he also criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic and called for the need for more testing and contact tracing.
As of Wednesday, the virus had killed 481 Wisconsinites and sickened more than 13,400, according to the Department of Health Services.
“It’s frustrating, but more than that it’s heartbreaking to think about how much pain could have been avoided if Trump had wasted less time and he moved quicker,” Biden said.
Biden also referenced Trump’s endorsement of the state’s contract with Foxconn Technology Group to build a flat-screen display panel plant the president has lauded as transformative for the state, calling it “the eighth wonder of the world” during 2018’s groundbreaking ceremony.
The project has yet to live up to the state’s $3 billion deal for a $10 billion, 20-million-square-foot campus and 13,000 jobs in southeast Wisconsin. Late last year, Gov. Tony Evers’ administration told the company it no longer was eligible for tax subsidies agreed to in the original contract, creating more uncertainty for the project.
“Instead of handing over the keys of the store to help (former Gov.) Scott Walker bring Foxconn to town, trading away billions in exchange for 13,000 jobs that never materialized, imagine if we invested that in small businesses,” Biden said on Wednesday.
During the online discussion with Kind, he talked about the need for affordable health care, rural broadband access and financial assistance for farmers as well as businesses struggling through the pandemic.
While he has held online events in other states, including Florida, Wednesday’s rally marked Biden’s first official campaign activity directed at Wisconsin, which many anticipate to be a key battleground state again this November.
In response to Biden’s campaign activity on Wednesday, Republicans, including former Gov. Scott Walker and Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Andrew Hitt, criticized the former vice president for just now focusing on Wisconsin. Trump held a Milwaukee rally in January, and Vice President Mike Pence has visited the state twice.
“It’s interesting that Joe Biden chose now to finally quote-unquote come to Wisconsin,” Hitt said. “The president himself, his White House, his campaign team, they have been here for Wisconsin for the last four years.”
Republicans, including Hitt, also criticized both of Biden’s online events for failing to start when they were originally scheduled. Both Trump and Biden have been forced to shift to more online campaign efforts amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Walker and Hitt, who held a media call with reporters Wednesday morning, also asked Kind and Biden to address allegations made by Tara Reade, who has said Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993, a claim Biden has denied.
Trump beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by about one percentage point, or fewer than 23,000 votes, in 2016.
This month’s Marquette Law School Poll found that 46% of respondents support Biden, while 43% support Trump. The margin is similar to that in March, when 48% supported Biden and 45% supported Trump. Both poll results are within the margin of error.
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