Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Wednesday that President Donald Trump performed as expected during their raucous debate the night before by illustrating his unwillingness to confront the challenges facing America.
“He did what I expected him to do last night,” said Biden, a former vice president, at the second stop in Alliance, Ohio, on his six-city whistle-stop tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania. “I think the phrase was: ‘Now he can become really vicious’ – that was his phrase.”
The former vice president accused Trump of showing disregard for more than 200,000 people who have died from COVID-19. At one point in the debate, Trump was asked to disavow white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys and he replied: “Proud Boys – stand back and stand by,” which the group adopted as a rallying cry.
Biden, who called Trump racist during the debate, said his message to the group is: “Cease and desist.”
“My message for the Proud Boys and every other white supremacist group is: cease and desist,” Biden said. “That’s not who we are. This is not who we are as Americans.”
Biden said no one should be concerned about a violent transfer of power if he wins the Nov. 3 election because Trump would leave office.
“I promise you if in fact we win this election, this president will step down,” Biden said. “A lot of bravado. He has no alternative. The American people would not stand for it. No agency would stand for that happening.”
Trump has said Biden would be controlled by the liberal wing of his party. But Biden said he developed his own platform with an expansion of the Affordable Care Act and a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions from the power industry by 2035, rather than supporting Medicare for All or the more progressive Green New Deal.
“He’s trying to run against somebody other than me,” said Biden, who called the Democratic Party a “big tent.” “I’m not worried about losing the left, right or the center of the party. This is a big party.”
A whistle-stop tour traditionally allowed presidential candidates of both parties to visit a variety of small towns efficiently, including former Presidents Harry Truman in 1948.
This year, the tour offered an option for Biden to campaign in key battleground states despite restrictions for social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s affinity for Amtrak is well-known because of his daily commute during 36 years a senator from Delaware between Wilmington and Washington, D.C. The railroad estimated he had traveled 2.1 million miles on its rails.
“I spent the bulk of my adult life driving to an Amtrak station,” Biden said, as a helicopter hovered overhead. “It’s not as fast as a helicopter, but I made a lot of family friends on Amtrak.”
Other stops on the tour include Cleveland and Alliance in Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Latrobe and Johnstown in Pennsylvania.
Trump won both states in 2016. But Biden and Trump are neck-and-neck in Ohio, according to an average of polls by tracking site FiveThirtyEight.com. Biden leads Trump by an average of 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania, which is considered one of the more crucial of the battleground states, according to the site.
Tiffany Davis, a fifth-grade teacher at Lordstown Elementary School, who introduced Biden, described why her union family supported the former vice president for his support for manufacturing jobs and his plans for economic recovery.
“In the valley, we’re tough, we’re resilient, we keep building, but President Trump’s failure to protect American manufacturing jobs in Lordstown has torn us apart,” Davis said.
Her husband Tom had worked at the General Motors plant in Lordstown for 17 years before it closed in March 2019. Tom Davis took another job in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to keep his medical benefits and pension, his wife said. But he commutes eight hours back on weekends to visit their children Brian, 12, and Aubrey, 7, she said.
“They miss their dad and I miss my husband and it didn’t have to be this way,” Davis said. “Our community was left behind by Donald Trump and his broken promises.”
Trump has campaigned as the better supporter of business, despite the manufacturing losses during his administration. Trump held an event Monday at the White House with GM officials touting the Endurance electric pickup truck built in Lordstown. GM announced this week it would invest $71 million at Ohio plants in Toledo and Defiance.
“Well, the area was devastated when General Motors moved out, and then we worked together, and we made the deal on the plant,” Trump said Monday. “It’s incredible what’s happened to the area.”
Biden said the debate illustrated how Trump cares more about Park Avenue than the former vice president’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania, or working-class cities in Ohio.
“I think he’s more than ignoring us,” Biden said. “I think he basically looks down on us. He judges us.”
Biden accused Trump repeatedly of lying, about calling military veterans “suckers” and “losers” or about assuring workers inaccurately that no plants would close in Ohio while he was president or about the threat of the pandemic.
“What he does: He lies to you,” Biden said. “He lies about exactly what’s happening.”
Biden opened the tour with a speech in Cleveland reiterating his plans for spurring manufacturing jobs and curbing the virus. He said the debate demonstrated that he cared more working-class voters than Trump.
“Does your president understand at all what you’re going through?” Biden asked. “He’s too weak to beat the pandemic.”