Joe Biden brought his campaign for the presidency to Cincinnati Monday with a message for Ohio Democrats – their votes matter; and they can help him heal the divisions he says President Donald Trump has caused in this country over the past four years.
"It's time to unite America again by choosing truth over lies,'' the former vice president said to a small, socially distanced group of invited guests spread across the marble floor of the rotunda at the Museum Center at Union Terminal.
Biden, who entered the rotunda wearing a white face mask, told the specially invited guests that while he is "running as a proud Democrat" he will be president of all the people.
"I will work as hard for those people who voted against me as I will for those who voted for me,'' said Biden, who came to Ohio three weeks and a day before the Nov. 3 election.
Trump has left millions of Americans out in the cold and at the mercy of a seriously troubled economy, he said.
"The economic outlook looks very uncertain,'' Biden said. "In Ohio, people are worried about whether or not they can make the next mortgage payment.
"They see the people at the top doing better and better during the middle of this godawful situation and they are asking 'Who is looking out for me?' "
As he did at his debate with Trump last month, and at every campaign stop so far, he scorched Trump for knowing back in February that the coronavirus was a potentially deadly, airborne virus that was much worse than the common flu and not telling the American people what he knew.
"He knew how dangerous this disease was but he did and said nothing,'' Biden said. "He said he didn't want to panic the American people. Americans don't panic. Trump panicked. And the longer he is president, the more reckless he gets."
At this late stage of the campaign, Trump is just returning to the campaign after testing positive for COVID-19 and spending a weekend in Walter Reed Army Medical Center before returning to the White House. Now, he says he is "immune," although it is not yet clear that he is completely recovered.
Biden said Trump's "reckless" attitude – rarely wearing a face mask and holding campaign events with large crowds of mostly unmasked people – is just going to make the pandemic worse, not better.
"How many empty chairs are there going to be around the dinner table because of (the Trump administration's) irresponsibility,'' Biden said. "How many?"
Biden visited Toledo earlier in the day, and Monday's two events in Ohio both followed strict rules aimed at not exposing people to the COVID-19 virus, with face masks required and social distancing of his supporters. That has not been the case at Trump events.
Up until recently, there was an assumption in political circles that Ohio was not going to be a factor in this year's presidential election. After all, Donald Trump won the Buckeye State by 8 percentage point over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
There was an assumption that Ohio, with its aging population and state government dominated by Republicans, had gone red for good.
Democrats made big gains in local offices in 2019; and the trend seems to be continuing as Trump's approval rating continues to drop.
A New York Times/Siena College poll of Ohio voters in early October showed that Trump's 2016 lead has disappeared. The battle is now a statistical dead heat, with Biden at 45% and Trump at 44%. Several other polls have the race for Ohio's 18 electoral votes too close to call.
Why the drop off for Trump? The polls also show that Trump's support is declining in the suburban areas of Ohio, particularly among women voters. The Cincinnati area is no exception.
The Biden-Harris campaign is trying to take advantage of a strategic move by the Trump-Pence campaign to pull advertising dollars out of Ohio and re-direct the money to battleground states, particularly Florida.
Biden's campaign has invested heavily in radio advertising in the rural counties of western Ohio, and in the eastern and southeastern sections of the state – in other words, the places where Trump ran up the score on Clinton four years ago.
The Ohio Republican Party and the Trump campaign insist that they will not write off Ohio with the election only three weeks away.
"While Joe Biden and the Democrats fumble to find Ohio at the 11th hour, Trump Victory never took the Buckeye State for granted and developed the strongest grassroots operation in the history of our state,'' said Dan Lusheck, spokesman for the Trump campaign in Ohio.
Biden, at home in Delaware Monday morning before leaving for Ohio, took another COVID-19 test. A pool report from his early afternoon event in Toledo said the result of the test was negative for COVID-19.
At Toledo, Biden spoke in front of a United Auto Workers union hall where supporters listened to his speech from about 30 socially distanced cars - all of them American-made, of course.
Biden arrived at the Museum Center at Union Terminal shortly after 5 p.m. where he spoke to a specially invited group of local Democrats who were spaced out across the floor of the rotunda, all socially distanced from each other.
Both Biden and Trump supporters waited outside Union Terminal hoping for a glimpse of the Biden motorcade.
Jack Snyder, 94, from Walnut Hills, a veteran and Trump supporter, came to show his support for the president riding in a 3-wheel scooter. Snyder said Trump is the right man for the job. Snyder said he stands "with all my veterans who stand for the flag not for those that kneel or take a knee."
Jeff King supports Biden. He is with the Bricklayers and Allied Craftmakers Union. He said he's seen a real attack on the pillars of democracy and this administration thinks it can do anything it wants. "If empowered to do that another four years, I'm scared what this country will look like," King said.
Additional reporting by Ann Thompson.