President Trump came to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s hometown on Thursday and said he was prepared to run against the previous Democratic vp in November, changing gears after being “mentally” able to tackle Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“I was geared up for Bernie because i believed it had been visiting happen,” he said. “And then we’ve this crazy thing that happened, right?”
Mr. Trump, speaking at a televised government building event hosted by Fox News, was bearing on Mr. Biden’s unexpected resurgence within the Democratic primaries on Tuesday, even as his campaign seemed in danger of collapsing.
In a venue where two Trump supporters questioned whether the president’s slash-and-burn tone was necessary, Mr. Trump, 73, ridiculed Mr. Biden, 77, for a series of recent gaffes and insinuated that his rival’s mental acuity was slipping.
The president spoken the votes “on Tuesday, which he thought was Thursday” — a relation to Mr. Biden’s use of the erroneous phrase “Super Thursday.” Mr. Trump also mocked his potential November rival for mistakenly saying in late February that he was “running for Senate” and for wildly overstating the amount of gun deaths within the us.
“There’s something happening there,” Mr. Trump said, to laughter from the gang of some hundred local supporters.
The setting, during which he took questions from the audience prescreened by Fox News, was an unusual one for the president, who regularly delivers hour-plus monologues before thousands at campaign rallies in large arenas. His quiet exchanges with polite questioners was a far cry from the shouted slogans and bawdy call-and-response of his typical “Keep America Great” events.
In a city chosen by the White House, the event was a part of a series that Fox News has staged with several Democratic candidates, including Mr. Sanders, who continues to battle Mr. Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mr. Trump said he had prepared his attacks on Mr. Sanders. “So, mentally, I’m geared up for Bernie — communist, I had everything down, i used to be geared up,” he said.
One Trump supporter told the president that he was concerned about nasty messaging in American politics, while another said her members of the family wouldn’t speak to her thanks to her support for him. She asked Mr. Trump how he would unite the country.
In each case, the president blamed his opponents for incivility. “When they hit us, we’ve to hit back,” he said. “I wouldn’t be sitting over here if I turned my cheek.”
Mr. Trump defended his handling of the spreading coronavirus, and deflected a matter about why he didn’t act sooner to alter Obama-era regulations that he has blamed for delaying testing kits. He said he was “thinking a couple of lot of other things, too, like trade and several other things.”
“As soon as we discovered it had been a controversy,” he added, “we did it.”
Asked whether he would stop shaking hands thanks to the outbreak, Mr. Trump, a self-described germophobe who has said he envies the japanese custom of bowing, called it a practical impossibility.
“I love the people of this country, and you can’t be a political candidate and not greet,” the president said. He dispose the recommendation of public health officials who have urged Americans to avoid contact, which may spread the coronavirus.
“Now the concept of shaking hands since this — you’re hearing lots of stuff about trying to not greet, which has not stopped me in any respect,” he said.
After the event, Mr. Trump stayed for several minutes and shook dozens of hands with no evident distress.
The president’s hourlong appearance, moderated by the Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, was peppered with factual inaccuracies and misleading statements.
Reminded by Mr. Baier that he has presided over a flood of sum, Mr. Trump insisted that he cared about the debt and would make tackling it a priority in a very second term.
As a candidate, Mr. Trump once boasted that in eight years he would eliminate not just the annual deficit but the whole debt. Instead, the debt has increased by about $3.5 trillion since he took office, despite a healthy economy. The president attributed that largely to his spending increases on the military, disregarding his tax cuts or domestic spending increases.
His insistence contradicted his own acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who told an audience last month in Britain that Republicans cared about the deficit when a Democrat was president. “Then Donald Trump became president, and we’re lots less interested as a celebration,” Mr. Mulvaney said.
Mr. Trump repeated a claim that President Barack Obama tried to satisfy with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, only to be rebuffed, an unsubstantiated assertion that he has previously aired which seems to possess been pulled out of nothingness. The president said that he maintained a “good relationship” with Mr. Kim, though he didn’t claim new progress toward coaxing the North’s leader to relinquish his nuclear program.
The president also falsely claimed that Scranton now has “the lowest and best unemployment numbers” ever. Its per centum for April 2019, 4 percent, was all-time low since 1990, the earliest year that data is obtainable. But the speed has since increased to five.6 percent in December, which was beyond the 5.4 percent recorded in December 2016.
Mr. Trump appears regularly on Fox News, but despite coverage that heavily favors him over all, he has also expressed irritation with the network for infrequent critical segments and unfavorable polling.
Last week, after a survey conducted by the network showed five Democratic candidates defeating Mr. Trump in head-to-head matchups, the president lashed get into frustration.
“Why doesn’t Fox finally get a competent Polling Company?” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter.
He also groused about the network on Monday at a rally in Charlotte, N.C.
“They want to be correctness,” he said, adding, “I don’t know what’s happening with Fox.”
Mr. Trump narrowly carried Pennsylvania in 2016, by 44,000 votes. He said he would “win it again very easily,” but recent polling within the state has shown him tied with or trailing both Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Biden, who now lives in Wilmington, Del., takes great pride in his roots in Scranton, a working-class city of 76,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Everything my sister, Valerie, and that i learned was in Scranton,” he said during an appearance in October at the identical venue, the Scranton Cultural Center. “Scranton creeps into your heart and never leaves you.”