© Bloomberg. U.S. President Donald Trump waves to the crowd during a campaign rally in Sanford, Florida, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. Trump returns to the campaign trail today after declaring himself
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump plans to accuse Democratic candidate Joe Biden of wanting to cripple drilling in Pennsylvania during the president’s first visit to the battleground state since recovering from Covid-19.
Trump is expected to say during a Tuesday evening campaign rally in Johnstown that Biden has “repeatedly pledged to abolish fracking,” according to excerpts released by the president’s campaign, even though the Democrat has said for months that’s not his position.
“While I am president, America will remain the world’s number one energy producer — with Pennsylvania workers leading the way,” Trump plans to say.
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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