DAYTON, Ohio | President Trump told Ohio voters on Monday that he will win the state again because he is leading an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and reversing “blue-collar carnage” that his predecessors ignored.
“The choice in November is very simple,” Mr. Trump told thousands of cheering supporters at an airport hangar. “Whether we lift our nation to soaring heights of new prosperity or whether we allow Sleepy Joe Biden to shut down the economy. If Biden wins, China wins. If we win, Ohio wins.”
Mr. Trump is relying on winning in areas he won in 2016, including the suburbs. He won Ohio by 8 percentage points, but the race with Mr. Biden in the state is much tighter this year.
A Rasmussen Reports poll on Sept. 8 showed Mr. Biden winning among likely voters in Ohio by 4 points, 49%-45%, outside the survey’s margin of error. A Morning Consult poll on Sept. 1 showed Mr. Trump leading, 50%-45%.
Republican state Sen. Peggy Lehner said Mr. Trump has lost support in her suburban Dayton district in western Ohio.
“It hasn’t ebbed. It’s crashed,” she told The Associated Press. “He is really doing poorly among independents.”
No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio.
If Mr. Trump feels chastened, he didn’t show it in front of cheering supporters at Dayton International Airport.
“How good have you been? What did we win by? A lot,” Mr. Trump said of 2016.
Mr. Trump said Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who received a mix of cheers and boos from the crowd, assured him he will win by even more this time, despite what the polls are showing.
The president campaigned in Dayton and Toledo on Monday as he hopes to energize his supporters with his plan to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday.
Ever the showman, Mr. Trump told the Dayton crowd he planned to select a nominee from among five female candidates but then polled the crowd, asking if they would prefer a man or a woman. He received a scattering of female cheers for a male nominee.
“What’s that all about?” Mr. Trump wondered aloud.
The Trump campaign is counting on the new battle to excite social conservatives in small town and rural areas opposed to abortion.
A crowd outside Toledo soaked up talk of another court pick during Mr. Trump’s second Ohio stop of the night, chanting: “Fill that seat!”
“The Supreme Court vacancy changes election dynamics, both for the presidency and for Senate seats in purple states,” Charles Lipson, political science professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, told The Washington Times. “In fact, that may be one reason President Trump spoke out so quickly to say he would fill the vacancy right away. He wanted to change the election dynamics, even though he risked mobilizing Democrats on judicial issues that already motivated Republican voters.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said voters elected Mr. Trump in 2016 “because he promised to fill any Supreme Court vacancy with a judge from a vetted list of potential nominees who have demonstrated that they are fair, independent and follow the Constitution as written.”
“Today he has a responsibility to deliver on that promise yet again — and we look forward to closely reviewing that nominee’s record,” she said.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a conservative Supreme Court “would be another vindication for all who battled in the trenches” for Mr. Trump “against not only the liberal mob, but Never Trump ‘Republicans’ who favored a Hillary Clinton presidency and its inevitable result — an enduring liberal Supreme Court.”
Mr. Trump taunted his rival during his Ohio swing, saying Mr. Biden is caught between the far-left and moderate voters and cannot propose a list of potential justices without losing votes.
The Trump campaign also is relying more on in-person appearances by the president, Vice President Mike Pence and surrogates instead of TV ads in Ohio. In the past two weeks, the Trump campaign has cut more than $2 million worth of TV advertising slots in Ohio while boosting spending in Arizona, Florida and North Carolina.
But the death of Justice Ginsburg has caused Democratic fundraising to soar. And the Biden campaign has dominated the airwaves in Ohio, running several TV commercials for weeks.
The Democrat’s campaign has more than $100 million more in cash on hand than the Trump campaign heading into the final six weeks of the race.
Speaking in Dayton, Mr. Trump said his new approach to trade will reverse the “blue-collar carnage” from trade deals that allowed foreign countries to undercut American workers.
“On Nov. 3rd, we must turn the page forever on the failed, corrupt political class. Biden is a die-hard globalist. The workers of America will never forget Biden’s economic treachery.”
He said NAFTA caused the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the Dayton area, and Biden “should be begging for your forgiveness.”
“I never saw anything so stupid in my life,” he said. “I watched the worst trade deals.”
The state’s economy is rebounding slowly from the coronavirus shutdowns. Ohio’s jobless rate fell in August to 8.9%, above the national average of 8.4%.
The state’s unemployment rate was 4.2 %in August 2019 and soared to 17.6% in April during the worst of the pandemic shutdowns. While private employers added 37,000 jobs last month, the state is down 389,500 jobs from the same point last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Mr. Biden said of the president’s rallies at the Dayton and Toledo airports, “President Trump has failed Ohio. From a bungled pandemic response that has cost jobs and lives, to openly calling for a boycott of Goodyear, to abandoning workers in Lordstown whose jobs he promised to protect — Trump has broken promise after promise and turned his back on the Buckeye State at a moment when we are in desperate need of real leadership.”
Mr. Trump focused on the economic recovery instead of social distancing rules or the COVID-19 death toll, which ticked closer to 200,000 during his speech in Dayton.
“We’re building it up again rapidly,” he told cheering supporters.
The candidates are scheduled to square off in Ohio for their first debate on Sept. 29, on the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Some local Democrats expressed concern that Mr. Trump’s events would set back the state’s efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“Over the past few months, Lucas County residents have practiced social distancing, worn masks outside of the home, and slowed the spread of COVID-19,” said state Rep. Lisa Sobecki, a Democrat from Toledo.
“Doing so has allowed us to be downgraded from red to orange on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.”
But she said Mr. Trump’s rally “threatens all of that progress.”