CHESTER, Pa. — Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden made a surprise stop in Pennsylvania on Monday to visit a field office and voter activation center, his latest push for the swing state’s voters as the presidential race enters its final stretch.
In stark contrast with his opponent, President Donald Trump, Biden had planned to stay close to his Wilmington, Delaware home on Monday in an effort to show that he is taking the threat of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic seriously.
Trump himself held a series of three campaign rallies across Pennsylvania on Monday, a state both candidates have vowed to win. Biden made several appearances alongside his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, in the battleground state on Saturday.
But the lure of Pennsylvania voters proved too much for Biden, who used his surprise appearance to slam the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden continued to seize on White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ Sunday comments on CNN, in which Meadows said “we’re not going to control the pandemic.” Asked why, Meadows said it’s “because it is a contagious virus just like the flu.”
On Monday, the former vice president said that Meadows’ admission proves that Biden’s criticisms of the Trump administration from the early days of the pandemic still hold water.
“I've been saying for months, as you well know, that he (Trump) waved the white flag all the way back then, he wasn't doing much at all,” Biden said of Trump’s early response to the pandemic. “Some people said I was being harsh, that I was being unfair. The White House is coming right out now and admitting what I said months ago is absolutely true.”
"The bottom line is, Donald Trump is the worst possible president, worst possible person, to try to lead us through this pandemic,” Biden continued.
Meadows himself has tried to do some clean-up from his Sunday remarks, telling reporters on Monday that Trump won’t give up until all Americans are safe and the virus is defeated.
“We are going to defeat the virus,” Meadows said. “We are not going to control it. We will try to contain it as best we can.”
Biden also touched on the contentious nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, who is expected to pass a final Senate confirmation vote on Monday evening.
Saying he doesn’t blame President Donald Trump for “celebrating” another Supreme Court confirmation, the Democrat said the White House event planned Monday night after the Senate vote to confirm Barrett is “inappropriate.”
Biden has been openly critical of Republicans’ speedy confirmation of Barrett. But he said Monday he gives “my word” that he hasn’t decided whether he’d back some Democrats’ calls to expand the court if he takes office to counter Republican power plays.
He said he’d give a “bipartisan” commission of “constitutional scholars” 180 days from Inauguration Day to recommend changes to the federal court system. Biden said he’s “not a fan” of court expansion but promised to listen to experts.
When asked by reporters about his limited travel schedule, Biden assured listeners that “there has not been a day that hasn’t been a 12-hour day yet.”
The former vice president did announce several new campaign stops during his visit to Pennsylvania, saying he will go to Iowa on Friday, his first trip to the state as the party’s presidential nominee. Trump easily carried Iowa in 2016.
Biden will also campaign this week in Florida, another key swing state Trump won in the last presidential election. Biden is planning to campaign Tuesday in Georgia, where no Democrat has won since 1992.
Biden’s last-minute travel mixes states that had razor-thin margins four years ago with more heavily Republican areas that had once been considered reliable Trump states.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were among the Great Lakes states that Trump won by less than 1 percentage point over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden has traveled to Pennsylvania more than any other state since becoming the Democratic nominee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.