Electoral history says President Trump will not be reelected without Ohio, and he attacked Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden hard on a visit to the state Thursday as he touted his moves to help American workers.
With less than 90 days until the general election, Mr. Trump went after Mr. Biden immediately upon landing in Cleveland. He accused the presumptive Democratic nominee of following a radical leftist agenda.
“Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything,” Mr. Trump said of his rival. “Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy.”
A Biden campaign spokesman said the former vice president’s Catholic faith “is at the core of who he is.”
At a Whirlpool washing machine factory in Clyde, the president announced he is reimposing a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum, saying Canada broke a commitment not to “flood our country with exports and kill all our aluminum jobs.”
Mr. Trump also sharpened his message about his goals for a second term, making six promises that he said will bring thousands of jobs back to the U.S. They include defeating the coronavirus and imposing more tariffs against unfair foreign imports in what would largely be a continuation of his first-term policies.
“As long as I am president of the United States, I will fight for you with every ounce of energy and strength that I have,” Mr. Trump told factory workers. “I will be your voice. I will defend your jobs. I will stand up to foreign trade cheaters and violators. I will always put American workers first.”
Mr. Trump won Ohio in 2016 by about 8 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The president predicted Thursday that he will win the state again, and he needs to be right. No Republican has ever won the presidency while losing Ohio.
Underscoring the challenge facing the president, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive for COVID-19 at the Cleveland airport shortly before Mr. Trump arrived on Air Force One, and had to leave for quarantine. The governor’s office said Thursday night that Mr. DeWine tested negative in a follow-up test, as did his wife and several staffers.
About 3,500 Ohioans have died from the disease.
Mr. Trump wore a mask while touring the Whirlpool plant.
Political analysts said the presidential race in Ohio, where Mr. Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination four years ago, is a toss-up this year because of job losses and the pandemic.
“I think his routine is wearing thin in places like Ohio,” said David Cohen, interim director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. “The fact that it’s August, and Donald Trump is having to travel to Ohio to shore up support when he won the state by 8 points in 2016, that tells you that he’s in big trouble. The pandemic has really cratered his support in the state.”
The state lost about 100,000 manufacturing jobs in April during the coronavirus shutdown, when Ohio’s unemployment rate jumped to 16.8% from a low of 4.1%. Tens of thousands of those jobs have been recovered, but many others have not.
Mr. Trump reminded Ohioans that he ended the Obama administration’s trade deals and other policies such as the Clean Power Plan regulating carbon emissions from power plants, saying they would have eliminated blue-collar jobs and raised costs for consumers.
“Most importantly, I imposed historic tariffs on China and stood up to China’s rampant trading abuses,” the president said. “We’ve worked hard and we’ve done some job, and they’re finally starting to recognize it. We’re going to win bigger in Ohio now than we did four years ago, and we’re very proud of what we’ve done.”
He said Mr. Biden, the Obama administration and other U.S. leaders have sold out American workers for years.
“For years, left-wing politicians smiled and looked at American workers right in the eye and took advantage of them and lied to them,” the president said. “They took your endorsements, they took your money and they took your votes, and they did nothing. Then they turned around and inflicted one corrupt betrayal of the American middle class after another, whether it was NAFTA, [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] or the horrible Korea deal. … And, by the way, Joe Biden supported every single one of those horrible disastrous sellouts.”
Mr. Biden leads the president by 2.3 percentage points in Ohio in the Real Clear Politics’ average of polls. In a CBS News/YouGov poll taken July 21-24, the president leads by a point, 46% to 45%, with 7% of respondents not sure.
In that survey, 56% of Biden supporters said they planned to vote for the Democrat “mainly to oppose Donald Trump.” Two-thirds of all respondents said they dislike how the president handles himself personally.
The economy was the top priority of 83% of respondents, followed by health care at 76%.
On the subject of Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic, 43% said it was “very bad,” 13% said it was “somewhat bad,” 19% said it was “very good” and 25% said “somewhat good.”
The president defended his administration’s response to the virus since January.
“Our strategy shelters those at highest risk while allowing those at lower risk to get safely back to work and school,” Mr. Trump said. “Instead of a never-ending blanket lockdown, causing severe long-term public health consequences, we have a targeted and looked at data-driven approaches. We know what to do, and we know who to protect.”
In a jab at his critics, he said, “We cannot defeat the virus by fighting against each other.”
On the economic recovery, the president said his administration is “fighting for Main Street, not Wall Street.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Mr. Trump to “reconsider” his move to reimpose tariffs on Canadian aluminum, calling it “a step in the wrong direction.”
“These tariffs will raise costs for American manufacturers, are opposed by most U.S. aluminum producers, and will draw retaliation against U.S. exports — just as they did before,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the Chamber of Commerce.
The president’s attack on Mr. Biden as “against God” drew a sharp response from Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.
“Donald Trump is the only president in our history to have tear-gassed peaceful Americans and thrown a priest out of his church just so he could profane it — and a Bible — for his own cynical optics as he sought to tear our nation apart at a moment of crisis and pain,” Mr. Bates said. “And this comes just one day after Trump’s campaign abused a photo of Joe Biden praying in church to demean him, in one of the starkest expressions of weakness throughout this whole campaign.”
Mr. Cohen said the president’s stop in Ohio highlighted what’s at stake in the election.
“It would be virtually impossible for Trump to win the presidency and not win Ohio,” he said. “Because if he’s losing Ohio, he’s losing all sorts of other battleground states that he must win that are an even bigger priority. He [also would be] losing Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Florida. And so if Ohio goes to Biden in November, it’s going to be a pretty big rout of the president.”