Trump Tells Pennsylvania Rally He's Only There Because the Pandemic Upended His Campaign

The comments were a rare acknowledgment from the president of the challenge he faces against Democratic nominee Joe Biden

Donald Trump speaks in Erie, PA
President Donald Trump campaigns at the Erie International Airport in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

Making a counterintuitive — and classically Trumpian — case for his re-election, President Donald Trump on Tuesday told an Erie, Pennsylvania, crowd that he had never intended to campaign there. But the novel coronavirus pandemic had other plans.

"You know, before the plague came in, I had it made," Trump said, referring to the virus that has so far sickened more than 8 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 200,000, becoming the election's defining issue.

"I wasn't coming to Erie. I mean, I have to be honest. There was no way I was coming," Trump, 74, told the attendees at his campaign rally Tuesday. "I didn't have to."

"I would have called you and said, 'Hey, Erie, you know, if you have a chance, get out and vote,' We had this thing won," Trump continued, with characteristic bravado. "We were so far up — we had the greatest economy ever, greatest jobs, greatest everything. And then we got hit with the plague, and I had to go back to work. Hello, Erie, may I please have your vote?"

In a move unusual for Trump, who is known for delivering hours-long speeches at rallies, the president eventually cut short his time on stage, wryly citing the weather.

"We'll make this a little shorter, you know, it's like about 40 degrees — I don't want to lose anybody, you gotta go vote," he said from Erie, where local weather reports showed a low of 56 degrees on Tuesday.

Joe Biden Donald Trump
President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock; Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty

In his final push before the Nov. 3 election, while numerous national and state polls show him trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Trump has drastically increased his campaign appearances — part of an effort to appear energized after his diagnosis and three-day hospitalization with the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

The president has held more than a dozen rallies since he left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, criss-crossing the country to make appearances in key battleground states like Pennsylvania.

A USA Today/Suffolk poll released Wednesday shows Biden leading the president by seven points in Pennsylvania, a pivotal state in the election that Trump narrowly won in 2016.

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While Trump and his advisers have often denounced polls, the president's comments at Tuesday's Erie rally were a rare acknowledgment of the challenge he faces campaigning against Biden amid a deadly pandemic he has unsuccessfully sought to minimize.

At a rally last week in Iowa, Trump recognized the crucial role sing states play in presidential elections, saying: "You have tremendous influence and tremendous power and you've never let me down."

He hedged those words, however, with a warning to his base: "If I don't get Iowa, I won't believe that one. I may never have to come back here again if I don't get Iowa."

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