by Sebastian Smith
President Donald Trump called Tuesday on the US attorney general to investigate his “criminal” Democratic opponent Joe Biden, as he headed to a rally in the key state of Pennsylvania two weeks before election day.
Polls show Trump down or in a tight contest in most of the swing states that decide presidential races, but he believes a combination of frenetic campaigning and scorched earth personal attacks on Biden are giving him new momentum.
“Things are changing fast,” Trump told the Fox & Friends program Tuesday, claiming that his own polling showed Biden is “imploding.”
There is little visible evidence that the Democrat is really waning with 14 days until before November 3 and ahead of Thursday’s final presidential televised debate.
However, just over two weeks ago Trump was in hospital with Covid-19 and Biden had the field to himself, hammering home his central message that the Republican president has failed the country on managing the coronavirus pandemic.
This week, it’s Biden who has all but disappeared from the campaign trail, apparently to prepare for the debate — with his team informing reporters at 9:30 am Tuesday that he had no more in-person events scheduled for the day.
In his absence, Trump is flooding the zone with an intense pursuit of a murky story painting Biden as corrupt, and staging nightly rallies, including Tuesday night’s event where he will be accompanied by his wife Melania in Erie, Pennsylvania — a crucial battleground.
Investigate ‘before the election’
Trump is the subject of multiple accusations of sexual assault, financial improprieties, and also is the first president to run for reelection after being impeached.
However, he won in 2016 in part thanks to the success of a last minute push to sow doubt about the honesty of his opponent Hillary Clinton and he has dusted off that playbook again now.
This time, the attack centers on a conspiracy theory about the Biden family’s business activities. Crowds at Trump’s rallies have even repurposed the old anti-Clinton chant of 2016 for Biden, shouting “lock him up.”
According to Trump, Biden’s personally troubled son Hunter sold access to his father in Ukraine and China when he was vice president to Barack Obama.
The narrative has been given new life on the eve of the election with the release of a story in the Trump-friendly New York Post, based on information supplied by Trump allies, regarding the supposed discovery of incriminating information on a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden.
Trump took his tactics a step further Tuesday when he not only called Joe Biden “a criminal” but demanded on Fox News that the attorney general, Bill Barr, “act and act fast.”
“This has to be known about before the election,” Trump said.
According to a new poll from The New York Times/Siena College, Biden has a nine-point lead nationally. Although this reflects the consensus of polls, there are outliers, including IBD/TIPP which accurately predicted the 2016 shock result and sees a much tighter race now, with Biden only 2.3 points ahead.
Pennsylvania is one of the half dozen states that Trump more or less has to win to hold on to the presidency. Polls show Biden ahead, though a Reuters/Ipsos poll this week showed the gap narrowing slightly.
Trump’s choice of Erie matters because this was long a Democratic bastion and he won there in 2016, highlighting his ability to turn the white, non-college educated, working class vote to his populist rhetoric.
It’s also significant that he will be accompanied by the first lady, who rarely campaigns, but may be seen as helping him with the women’s vote — an area where polls show Trump in serious trouble.
While Biden continues to try and focus on Trump’s handling of the pandemic — depicting him as an irresponsible leader who panicked — the president is milking frustration in places like Pennsylvania with the economic impact of shutdowns and social distancing.
“We will never shut down” again, Trump promised Tuesday — a message he will likely repeat loudly at the rally.