Election Eve: Biden makes final campaign push across Midwest

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden salutes after speaking at a rally at Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(CN) — Democratic challenger Joe Biden hammered President Donald Trump on his pandemic response at a drive-in event in Cleveland early Monday afternoon, one of his last campaign stops before Tuesday’s election.

Horns honked in applause as the former vice president called on those watching and listening to vote against the Republican incumbent, characterizing the election as a referendum on America’s national character.

Accompanied by his grandchildren, Biden slammed Trump on his response to the Covid-19 crisis, his low $750 tax bill and his trade war with China while promoting his own virus response plans, support for a public health care option and his planned “made in America” protectionist measures for government contracts.

“My message is simple: The power to change the country is in your hands. I don’t care how much Donald Trump tries, there is nothing that is going to stop the people of this nation from voting,” Biden said. “When America votes, America will be heard, and when America’s heard, I believe the message will be clear: it’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home.”

Both Biden and Trump have been blitzing the Midwest with campaign stops in the final stretch, vying for crucial battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.

Trump took a trip to hold rallies in Florida and North Carolina on Monday after a series of stops in Michigan and Iowa, and is scheduled to return to the Midwest for stops in Michigan and Wisconsin on Monday afternoon.

Biden, meanwhile, arrived in Ohio after a Saturday rally in Minnesota and a Sunday trip to Pennsylvania, to which he plans to return Monday afternoon. A Biden event in Texas was canceled on Saturday after a convoy of Trump supporters in pickup trucks apparently tried to run a campaign bus off the road.

As vice president to Barack Obama, Biden was on the ticket that won Ohio in 2008 and 2012, but Trump took the state by over 8 percentage points in 2016. The Buckeye State is typically considered a bellwether for the election at large, having voted for every winning presidential ticket starting with Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Polls indicate that the race for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes is now neck-and-neck, with the majority of the most recent polls favoring Trump by 5 points or fewer. The state isn’t critical to a Biden Electoral College win, but a victory there for the Democrat would be a devastating blow to Trump – no Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.

Biden also welcomed the support of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s only Democratic statewide elected official.

“No one fights harder,” Biden said of the senator, who briefly explored a presidential run of his own last year.

Biden spent time discussing the future of Ohio’s auto industry, which once held a commanding place in the state’s economy but has suffered in recent years. In 2016, car manufacturing and related industries employed over 129,000 people in the state, but that had dropped to around 107,000 in 2018. The future for the U.S. auto industry, Biden said, lies in innovation and getting ahead in the lower-carbon electric car market.

“Trump calls the climate crisis a hoax. I see it as an opportunity,” he said.

He warned about the dangers of letting international competitors like China take the first steps toward greener cars, and reemphasized his plans to penalize companies for outsourcing work overseas and require government contracts to use materials made in America. Again, he slammed Trump on that issue.

“Donald Trump is going to be the first president in 90 years– that’s a lot of presidencies… to finish his four years in office with fewer jobs than when he was elected to office,” Biden said.

The former vice president also hit on issues of health care, discussing his plans for an expanded public option to push down costs of for-profit health insurance while offering an option to those without employer-provided insurance.

“It’s gonna cost a lot of money, but guess how I’m gonna pay for it? Trump’s going to start paying some taxes,” he quipped.

After a somber conversation about racial injustice, in which he condemned rioting and looting but backed protesters of racism and police brutality, Biden reiterated his call to action and sought to instill a sense of gravitas in the beeping Cleveland crowd.

“The amazing thing about this moment in our history: on the one hand, we’re facing the biggest threat to who we are, what we believe, what we’ve seen, what we’ve been, in our history. On the other hand, our future has never been more promising,” he said. “The character of America is on the ballot.”