Biden seeks somber contrast to Trump in Kenosha
Biden’s trip was somber and subdued and did not resemble a traditional campaign swing.
Biden sought to strike a different tone from President Trump, who toured Kenosha earlier this week to appear in front of property that had been destroyed by protesters during racial justice demonstrations.
After stepping off the airplane, Biden and his wife Jill Biden huddled in private in a nearby building with Blake’s father, brother, two sisters and members of Blake’s legal team.
Blake and his mother called into the meeting for about 15 minutes from the hospital, where Blake is recovering after being shot in the back seven times at close range by the police. Biden said Blake is out of the Intensive Care Unit but is partially paralyzed.
“He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how whether he walked again or not he was not going to give up,” Biden said in remarks later at Grace Lutheran Church in front of an audience of about 20 socially distanced local activists and business leaders.
Inside the church, Biden sat wearing a mask at the front of the sanctuary as Kenosha residents came forward to tell him about how they’d been affected by the Blake shooting and civil unrest.
Biden heard from a white business owner who said her store had been destroyed by rioters and a Black attorney who pleaded with him to address criminal justice reform.
Halfway through the event, Biden delivered remarks in which he blamed Trump for inflaming racial tensions in the country.
The Democratic nominee accused his rival of “giving succor to white supremacists” and of talking in a way that is “not only incorrect but immoral.”
Biden brought up Trump’s response to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville as evidence of the president’s failed leadership on race.
“It’s not all [Trump’s] fault,” Biden said. “But it legitimized a dark side of human nature. What it did though, was also expose what had not been paid enough attention to. The underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States that still exists and has for 400 years. So we end up with a circumstance like we have here in Kenosha.”
The Blake shooting has turned Kenosha into the epicenter of the civil unrest that has wracked the country since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Biden’s visit comes after Trump toured Kenosha earlier this week to draw attention to businesses that have been destroyed during the protests.
Trump has barely mentioned Blake, instead focusing on the destructive elements of the racial justice demonstrations. The president has blamed elected officials in Democratic-controlled cities, such as Kenosha, Portland and Seattle, for allowing rioters and looters to run through their cities unchecked.
The president’s campaign has leaned into the message that the nation’s cities would be violent and unlivable places if Biden is elected president.
“Americans didn’t hear any denunciation of antifa or any other left-wing agitators who have rioted in American cities from coast to coast,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “He said nothing about Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s acceptance of federal assistance from President Trump to quell the riots and did not explain that he opposed calling in the National Guard to protect Americans from violent left-wing rioters. Joe Biden made this above-ground excursion from his basement for purely political reasons and it shows.”
Biden on Thursday said Trump’s law-and-order message was not breaking through to voters.
“There’s a lot of folks who thought, well the president has made great strides, with his law and order strides, that after his convention he really made inroads,” Biden said. “He hasn't. Not at all. It should give you a little bit of confidence in the American people. They ain’t buying it.”
Biden gave a speech earlier this week condemning the violent aspects of the protests and he reiterated on Thursday that those who break the law during the protests should be prosecuted.
“Let’s get something straight here, protesting is protesting … but none of it justifies burning, looting or anything else,” Biden said. “So regardless how angry you are, if you loot or burn you should be held accountable the same as someone who has done anything else, period.”
Biden’s visit to Wisconsin comes 61 days before the election.
Democrat Hillary Clinton famously failed to touch down in Wisconsin during the general election against Trump in 2016, and she ended up losing the state by fewer than 25,000 votes.
The Biden campaign released a new ad on Thursday that will run in Wisconsin, as well as several other battleground states, focused on “creating a more just society for Black Americans.”
“We can’t turn away. Now is the time for racial justice,” Biden says in the ad. “I believe with every fiber in my being we have such an opportunity now to change people’s lives for the better.”
Biden leads Trump by 4 points in Wisconsin, according to the RealClearPolitics average.
The average includes a Fox News survey released Wednesday that found Biden leading Trump by 8 points in the Badger State. The Fox News surveys have generally been worse for Trump this cycle than other polls.
A recent CNBC/Change Research poll put Biden’s advantage at 4 points in Wisconsin, while a Trafalgar Group poll found Trump with a 1-point advantage.
The Trafalgar Group, which was the only pollster to show Trump with a lead in Michigan heading into Election Day, tries to account for so-called “shy” Trump voters who do not want to tell pollsters they support the president.
“Joe Biden made a political trip to Kenosha today — his first visit to Wisconsin — after months of saying he could not travel because of the science of coronavirus,” Murtaugh said. “What changed was political science, as he knows he is in serious decline in the polls.”
When the 2020 cycle began, some Democrats had all but written off Wisconsin, believing white working-class voters in the state had put it out of reach for Democrats.
Democrats officially held their nominating event in Milwaukee, although Biden did not travel there for the event and instead gave his acceptance speech from Wilmington.
But Biden’s lead in the RealClearPolitics average is slightly larger in Wisconsin than it is in Michigan or Pennsylvania.
“I promise you, win or lose, I’m going to go down fighting for racial equality, equity across the board,” Biden said.