This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
President Donald J. Trump is making a campaign stop today in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, just 15 minutes outside Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton.
It’s one of multiple stops he’s making this week in battleground states as Democrats hold their national convention.
Air Force One is scheduled to land at 2:30 p.m. at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, and then Trump will travel to Mariotti Building Products. There he is expected to speak at 3 p.m. about a “half century of Joe Biden failing America” on the same day the former vice president and senator accepts the Democratic nomination for president.
USA TODAY: Trump to hit Biden over guns, schools and police
USA TODAY obtained a copy of Trump’s prepared speech in Old Forge:
President Donald Trump plans to deliver a wide-ranging political indictment of Joe Biden on Thursday in a speech near his Democratic challenger’s Pennsylvania birthplace, just hours before Biden accepts his party’s nomination for president.
Trump plans to say Biden would be a disaster for Americans on taxes, gun rights, aid to migrants, abortion, energy production, school choice and police protection, according to prepared remarks obtained by USA TODAY.
Read the full USA TODAY story here.
– David Jackson and Michael Collins
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Trump supporters gathering
By 9:30 a.m., there were many Trump signs in Old Forge. Bikers for Trump were gathering across from the entrance to Mariotti Building Products.
Waiting for the president’s arrival, David Ragan with Bikers for Trump took a swipe at how the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was handling the COVID-19 pandemic, ordering people to wear masks and shutting down businesses: “If a mask works, why do we need to shut anything down?”
Trump protesters were gathering, too.
Gene Stilp of Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County, who said he has many postal worker friends, was displaying a “Save the Post Office, cancel Trump” sign. He said he’s concerned that the Trump administration has slowed delivery of mail. Stilp said he thinks Trump is a racist and a traitor.
– Kathryne Rubright
For this Trump supporter, it’s all about jobs
Steven Andrew Gasdik of Old Forge has never attended a Trump visit before. So, when he heard a rumor the president was coming to his small town near Scranton, he was like, “Really? Really?! Are you serious?” When he found out it was true, he called off work as an electronics technician.
He was outside the speech site at 8 a.m., having a fantastic time waiting for the president’s arrival with his family – including his 100-year-old Aunt Dorothy, who he said plans to vote for Trump.
Gasdik said he supports Trump for “jobs” – particularly for his kids: “I’m worried about my kids. My kids need jobs, and Donald Trump will bring them jobs.”
– Kathryne Rubright
Sen. Casey’s preemptive response to Trump speech
On a morning call organized by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti preemptively responded to President Donald Trump’s expected attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Cognetti, who served in the Treasury Department under the Obama administration, said Trump has undermined the Affordable Care Act and worked to derail Social Security while backing the interests of corporations and big donors.
On the other hand, Biden, who she referred to as a “hometown kid,” is compassionate, empathetic and an experienced leader, the mayor said.
“This evening’s events lay bare the contrast we have coming up in this election,” Cognetti said.
The mayor also insisted that, while Biden has spent most of his life in Delaware, he remains a Pennsylvanian at heart. “The connection to Scranton is real. He has not forgotten his roots,” she said. “He has not forgotten the people of Scranton nor the values he learned growing up here.”
Casey said Biden is in Pennsylvania all the time and lent his support to the state while serving in the Senate. “Joe Biden has the values and the spirit of the people of Scranton in his heart,” Casey said.
Trump “doesn’t know the first thing about Scranton,” said Casey.
Dan Skok, a 69-year-old West Wyoming, Luzerne County, resident said he lost his wife in April and was denied the opportunity to be with her at the end because of COVID-19 precautions and Trump’s “mishandling” of the pandemic.
“I didn’t get those last words from my wife,” Skok said.
Now, Skok said his 21-year-old daughter in college is struggling and so is he as he tries to get by solely on Social Security benefits. He said Trump’s plan “is to bankrupt that system.”
Skok also said his 91-year-old mother is in a nursing home receiving care thanks to Medicaid, a program that Trump has repeatedly proposed to cut funding for in his budgets.
“All I can say Mr. President is that the truth matters,” Skok said. “I can’t stand a liar and a thief and you’re both.”
– J.D. Prose
Where is Old Forge, PA?
President Trump will visit Mariotti Building Products in Old Forge, Pa., which is about 15 minutes from Scranton, Pa.
– Scott Fisher
Trailing in Pennsylvania polls
Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania comes as he’s trailing Biden by 6 points in Pennsylvania, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. He was trailing Hillary Clinton by about the same margin in 2016 and ended up winning the state by 44,000 votes.
Blue-collar workers in northeast and southeast Pennsylvania helped Trump win four years ago, and he will need them to win again this year, analysts said.
The president’s campaign stop also comes as his administration faces criticism for its handling of the coronavirus and systemic racism in the country.
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A non-violent protest is planned for 2 p.m. outside of Mariotti Building Products, where members of the United NEPA Alliance, 2020 Freedom Fighters and NEPA Progressives say they plan to “line the streets” around the event.
Trump supporters are also expected to be outside of the event, which is not offering tickets to the general public. Instead, supporters will be able to watch virtually at 3 p.m. on the campaign website.
The Biden campaign called Trump’s upcoming visit a “sideshow.”
The event is “a pathetic attempt to distract from the fact that Trump’s presidency stands for nothing but crises, lies and division — the opposite of what Pennsylvanians are hungry for and what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris represent,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
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Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.
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