LA CROSSE, Wisconsin – For a few hours, Labor Day began with the fall presidential campaign revolving around Wisconsin when Vice President Mike Pence tried to poach Democrats in that Mississippi city and Senator Kamala Harris tried to get the Democratic base congregate Milwaukee.
But their dueling events on opposite ends of this increasingly central state – as well as Joseph R. Biden’s visit to another battlefield, Pennsylvania – were soon overwhelmed by a force as strong as any current: President Trump’s thirst for attention. If you
As the only member of the two tickets not on campaign Monday, Mr. Trump abruptly called a press conference at the White House and then used it to voice a range of personal and political grievances. He gave the names of his opponents ̵
Mr Trump defended himself for a fifth straight day after a report in the Atlantic that he had ridiculed America’s war dead, suggesting the allegations came from Pentagon leaders whom he labeled as war profiteers.
“They don’t want to do anything other than wage wars so that all these wonderful companies that make the bombs, the planes that make everything else, stay happy,” Trump said of the officers he commands without mentioning his own choice for Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, who was an executive at defense company Raytheon.
The broadside that came after current and retired officers has been particularly silent over claims that the president labeled those killed as “losers” only added more fuel to an explosive act many Republicans have expected Mr. Trump to do.
For campaign purposes, Trump’s preoccupation with the Atlantic article highlighted the limited value of the president’s bullying pulpit in the hands of a candidate unwilling to deliver a targeted message.
After all, Monday was ready for a showdown between Mr. Pence and Ms. Harris, who were performing together for the first time in the same state on the same day.
The vice president, along with Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, hoped to appeal to white working-class voters along the state’s western border who supported the Democrats for a generation before helping to tip Mr Trump less than a percentage point in 2016 give .
Standing in front of a group of employees from a regional utility company, Mr Pence trumpeted the work of administration on behalf of the dairy farmers, campaigned for the booming economy of the state before the coronavirus crisis, and repeatedly attacked Mr Biden and Ms. Harris by name.
The Vice President noted that Ms. Harris was one of only 10 senators who opposed the renegotiated North American Free Trade Pact because it was insufficient to address climate change, arguing that it was putting a “radical environmental agenda” on the Wisconsin and Wisconsin dairy. submitted to the power of Wisconsin. “
Although the company they spoke at employs some union members, neither Mr Pence nor Mr Scalia made any reference to organized labor in their remarks, reflecting their roots on the right, but a remarkable decision given Mr Trump’s strength in some Union budgets.
Using the beginning of his speech, Mr Pence used the opening of his speech to claim that Mr Biden would “pursue policies that have literally led to violence in our major American cities,” reiterating the Republican line of scrimmage that the Democrats would lead a dangerous, lawless nation.
Mr Pence also despised Mr Biden for not criticizing democratic mayors or for not mentioning the right-wing extremist group Antifa in his convictions of violence.
While recognizing that the use of force by law enforcement agencies should be “thoroughly investigated”, Mr Pence was not referring to the police shooting of Jacob Blake but focused on the violent consequences of the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, much like Mr Trump was there on his visit last week.
On his own trip there last week, Mr. Biden met with the Blake family, as Ms. Harris did when she arrived in Milwaukee on Monday.
She also met with union workers, as well as black business owners and pastors in town, where democratic turnout fell four years ago and supported Mr. Trump’s victory.
“We have to get this done, I need your help in Milwaukee,” Ms. Harris said to the supporters who lined up to greet them on the sidewalk and encouraged them to take part in the early voting.
Even before the events in Kenosha, the evenly divided politics of the state and Mr Trump’s need to keep his map largely intact for 2016 put Wisconsin at the center of this year’s race.
After Hillary Clinton was memorably unable to campaign here four years ago, last week Mr Biden chose Wisconsin as his first campaign stop in the Midwest after the Democratic Convention and assured local party leaders that he would return regularly.
Desperate to keep Wisconsin in their column, Republicans tried this summer to get rapper Kanye West into the state’s election in hopes that he could pull Mr Biden’s votes and make it easier for the president to to win with less than a majority, like Mr Trump four years ago. But they were late in filing files for Mr. West and are now in court appealing the decision to stop him from voting.
More recently, as Mr Pence demonstrated Monday, Republicans have been trying to raise law and order problems to gain a foothold against Mr Biden in Wisconsin.
The former vice president then aired a commercial here and in other swing states that included recordings of a speech he gave in Pittsburgh last week in which he explicitly denounced violent protests.
There’s no evidence yet that efforts to portray Mr. Biden as crime-friendly are diminishing his advantage: he has had a steady lead in polls in Wisconsin for months, including those caught after the Kenosha riots.
Compare that election to 2016, when third-party candidates received more than 6 percent of the vote in Wisconsin and an unusually large number of voters said they were undecided in the final days of the election, according to Charles Franklin, a pollster for the Marquette University said the current race is far more stable.
“They have a smaller proportion of third-party vendors and a smaller group of people that has yet to be broken, so it’s less uncertain in the past 60 days,” said Franklin, whose polls found about half as many undecided voters as he showed four years ago .
Mr Trump’s total span in Wisconsin four years ago was less than 23,000 votes, less than the total number of votes cast for third-party candidates in Milwaukee County this year alone.
However, the 2016 results and a similar close victory for Democratic Governor Tony Evers in 2018 make it clear that Wisconsin is on the verge of the race that marked the state’s presidential election ahead of former President Barack Obama’s two major victories.
A victory for Mr Biden here would be a heavy blow to Mr Trump’s election calculation. If the president held every other state he conquered in 2016, he would have to win at least one of three key swing states to qualify for re-election: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania stand out even bigger with his campaign, increasingly concerned about Michigan, where advertising has been cut.
It was no coincidence that Mr. Biden was in Pennsylvania on Labor Day.
His day reflected the traditional spirit of the holiday in democratic politics, minus the parade routes and union gatherings that Mr. Biden has been a staple of for decades. They were canceled this year because of the pandemic.
While stopping over in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mr Biden promised that he would be “the best friend workers ever had in the White House” and criticized Mr Trump for treating the stock market as a representative of the whole economy.
Later that day, at a virtual event with Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, in Harrisburg, Mr. Biden attacked the president for presiding over the huge job losses during the pandemic, promising that his administration would “help the people Work would bring away ”with an extensive infrastructure program. Union members, he said, “deserve a president who will fight like the devil for you.”
But Mr Biden also returned to the subject of Mr Trump’s respect for the military – “none of the veterans you know are losers,” he said – and accused the president of disregarding not only soldiers but a larger community as well of workers who believe in self-sacrifice.
“He will never understand you,” Mr Biden told the union members’ online audience, adding, “He will never understand our cops, our firefighters.”
He got more personal and used an interview with a Pennsylvania television station to refute Mr. Trump’s claims, which were in decline. “Watch me run up ramps and stumble over ramps, okay?” Mr. Biden said.
At his press conference, Mr. Trump directed his own attacks against Mr. Biden, often in scattershot terms.
And instead of focusing on Friday’s job report, which saw unemployment drop, Mr Trump touched on other topics.
He complained about postal ballot papers in the upcoming presidential election, complained that local authorities had “not retaliated” against riots, and sued his previous comments on American troops after attacking Pentagon leaders.
Mr Trump reiterated his previous rejections to the Atlantic Report, saying only “one animal” would make the comments attributed to him. But he also reiterated his low opinion of John McCain, former prisoner of war and Republican senator, who died in 2018.
“I was never a fan of John McCain,” said the president, accusing him of supporting “endless wars” and “spreading the fake dirty dossier” on Mr. Trump.
“Shall I say what a wonderful guy?” asked the President.