President Donald Trump virtually returned to the Keystone State on Sunday evening for the first time in a few months to host a “tele-rally.”
During his 30 minute speech, Trump attempted to paint former Vice President Joe Biden as a “radical Democrat,” and leveled a series of attacks on the Democratic presidential hopeful from their differences on the energy industry and questioning if the former VP, a Scranton native, is really a “Pennsylvanian.”
“Fracking is a big factor in Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “In your history the greatest year you ever had, fracking is a big, big factor in Pennsylvania jobs and success and your low taxes.”
“Biden will ban fracking, killing over 600,000 Pennsylvania jobs,” Trump said.
Trump’s claim about 600,000 jobs being lost in Pennsylvania due to a fracking ban is based off of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study from 2019. This study was based off of a hypothetical nationwide ban on fracking, which Biden does not support. The former VP was criticized in the Democratic Primary over his opposition to a nationwide ban on the industry.
Biden has not called for the elimination of fracking, but did say that his administration would ban “new gas permitting on public lands.” Biden’s campaign has instead attempted to make the case that he can protect workers and the environment at the same time.
The issue of fracking is also emerging as a key issue in the race for the state’s 17th Congressional District in western Pennsylvania. The lone Pennsylvania Democrat that Trump called out by name during the tele-rally was Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Allegheny), who he described as a “disaster” and “weak,” while boosting GOP challenger Sean Parnell’s candidacy, who he dubbed a “military hero” pointing to his service in the military. Lamb also served in the military as well.
“He’s running against a person who actually lied to you,” Trump said of Parnell.
“He’s totally against Trump and making America Great Again, America First, voted for impeachment as soon as Nancy Pelosi told him to,” Trump said, while describing Lamb.
All Democratic members of the state’s Congressional delegation voted for impeachment, while all members of the state’s GOP delegation voted against it, although Lamb distanced himself from the rest of the state’s delegation when he didn’t vote for Pelosi as Speaker after the Democrats regained a majority in the House.
“Remember, he was going to be on our side, he was going to be a Democrat on our side,” Trump said of Lamb. “He turned out to be a puppet of Nancy Pelosi and Schumer.”
“That’s Conor Lamb,” Trump said. “He’s a disaster. He’s weak. He’s a weak and ineffective guy, Sean Parnell… he’ll be so great, he’s going to be one of our greats.”
Parnell was the lone GOP congressional challenger in the state that Trump spoke about during the tele-town hall and didn’t mention either Jim Bognet running in PA8 or Lisa Scheller in PA7, which are also top targets for the NRCC in the upcoming election.
Trump did laud Pennsylvania Reps. John Joyce (R-Blair), Fred Keller (R-Snyder), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny), and G.T. Thompson (R-Centre) as “incredible people,” and “warriors.”
He also shouted out David Urban, Trump 2016 Pennsylvania campaign senior advisor, as a “friend” and “great guy,” Trump 2020 Pennsylvania campaign chair Bernie Comfort, and Pennsylvania Republican Party Chair Lawrence Tabas.
While fracking remains a key issue in western PA politics, Trump did single out Philadelphia for it’s sanctuary city policy and said his administration will send federal law enforcement to the area.
“While sanctuary cities like Philadelphia, can you believe that Philadelphia is a sanctuary city, defies ICE and releases illegal aliens charged with heinous crimes like rape and murder,” Trump said. “My administration is surging federal law enforcement into our cities including Philadelphia to get dangerous MS-13 gang members and others, predators and all off the streets.”
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party shot back at Trump over his tele-rally, specifically slamming the president on his administration’s response to COVID-19.
“None of the lies and empty rhetoric Donald Trump spewed tonight changes the fact that 7,200 Pennsylvanians have lost their lives because of his failed COVID-19 response, which has also forced millions more out of work and thrust our economy into a historic recession,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Andres Anzola. “Instead of taking a break from the golf course to phone into our state, Trump ought to finally deliver on a national testing strategy and much needed economic relief for jobless Pennsylvanians who are still struggling. We deserve better.”
Recent polling shows that Trump is vulnerable on COVID-19, while his best numbers come from the economy.
A Franklin & Marshall College poll of Pennsylvania likely voters in late July showed that Trump received poor grades on his job handling the outbreak. 29% said that Trump has done an “excellent” or “very good job” handling coronavirus outbreak, while 57% said that he deserves either a “failing” or “below average” grade on the matter, and 14% said that the president has been “average” on his response to COVID-19.
Trump’s best marks on the six specific topics asked to voters from the recent F&M poll was the economy with 45% that said Trump has done either an “excellent” or “very good” job helping to create new jobs, while 36% said that the president deserves either a “failing” or “below average” grade on the matter, and 17% said that the president has been “average” on the issue.
Biden’s Scranton roots have been highlighted by several national outlets as a possible positive for the Democratic presidential hopeful to turn the state blue again. Harping on an attack Trump levied at Biden at a rally in Montoursville in May 2019, the president accused Biden of not actually being from the state.
“Joe Biden likes to say he’s from Pennsylvania, but he’s not,” Trump said. “His family abandoned Pennsylvania, I guess he was about 10 years old, maybe, and they moved to Delaware. He’s not from Pennsylvania.”
“He left Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “When he comes around, he only goes to Delaware to make speeches, he goes to the basement, but he goes to Delaware to make speeches, but you know, it’s crazy he’s saying he’s from Pennsylvania. He’s wrong, his family left Pennsylvania many years ago when he was, I believe, 10 year old.”
“It’s not only that he isn’t from Pennsylvania, but he left Pennsylvania and I’ll never let Pennsylvania down,” Trump said.
Despite Trump’s charge about Biden only making speeches in Delaware, the former VP has made several visits to the state in recent months boosting a number of his proposals.
Excluding this tele-rally, Trump’s most recent appearance in the state was when he spoke for 30 minutes at a medical equipment distribution center in the Lehigh Valley in mid-May. Vice President Mike Pence has made several visits to the state over the past few months, with his most recent trip being last week headlining a “Cops for Trump” event in Westmoreland County and leading a conversation on America’s economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic in Somerset County.
Biden’s most recent visit to the state was in early July in Lackawanna County to discuss his economic agenda following the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Jill Biden and Sen. Bob Casey discussed the safe reopening of Pennsylvania’s schools in a virtual campaign visit to Pittsburgh last Tuesday.
Below is the entire PA tele-rally.
Note: Urban is part owner of PoliticsPA.com.