Biden to mark Labor Day with union event as U.S. campaign enters homestretch

FILE PHOTO: Joe Biden, Democratic U.S. presidential nominee, speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sept. 4, 2020. /REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

LANCASTER, Penn. (Reuters) – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday used his Labor Day message celebrating workers to also attack President Donald Trump over comments he reportedly made disparaging fallen soldiers, as Biden met with union workers who are military veterans.

Biden’s trip to Pennsylvania on Monday kicks off another flurry of travel to battleground states this week by both Biden and Trump as some opinion polls show the race tightening with less than 60 days to go until the Nov. 3 election.

Trump has faced a new controversy after The Atlantic magazine, citing four unnamed people, reported last week that he had referred to Marines buried in an American cemetery near Paris as “losers” and “suckers” and declined to visit their graves during a 2018 trip to France. Trump vehemently denied the report.

Biden on Monday met with three union workers who also served in the U.S. military at a home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“Do you think most of those guys and women are suckers?” Biden asked, adding a sarcastic chuckle.

With the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest over racism and police brutality gripping attention in recent months, Biden is seeking to maintain his edge by painting the Republican incumbent as an ineffectual leader who thrives on chaos and has left the working class behind.

Trump has struggled to change the contours of the campaign despite highly charged rhetoric on racial polarization and “law and order” intended to motivate his base and draw new supporters in suburban parts of key swing states, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Trump held a news conference Monday at the White House, promoting it earlier in the day with a tweet saying: “Jobs number, and the Economic comeback, are looking GREAT. Happy Labor Day!”

Trump plans to visit North Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania later in the week.

Biden’s campaign has said that as many as 16 states could be up for grabs in November, with doubts about Trump’s coronavirus response and the battered economy making states like Arizona, Texas and Georgia more competitive for Democrats.

Still, polls point to the economy’s being a relative area of strength for Trump with voters, even as the labor market reels from the effects of the pandemic, which has put millions out of work.

Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s re-election campaign communications director, said last week that Biden had begun traveling more frequently out of his home state of Delaware because “he knows he is bleeding in the polls.”

PITCH TO LABOR

Biden will meet on Monday with the leader of the largest federation of U.S. labor unions, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, at the group’s state headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and take questions from union workers.

Biden’s campaign is expected to announce the endorsements of three unions, according to a person familiar with the matter: the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the International Union of Elevator Constructors and the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Biden and Trumka, in a jointly written op-ed essay Monday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, criticized Trump’s labor policies while touting plans to invest in green energy jobs and support workers’ right to unionize.

The Harrisburg event highlights the Biden campaign’s strategy for Pennsylvania, where early voting starts in mid-September.

Polls in Pennsylvania have consistently put Biden in the lead, but averages show that margin narrowing to roughly 4 to 5 percentage points, down from about 8 points in late June. Biden is scheduled to be back in Pennsylvania on Friday.

Trump unexpectedly won the state in 2016 by less than a percentage point as part of an electoral sweep through the country’s former industrial heartland, including Wisconsin and Michigan. Biden will visit Michigan midweek.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Peter Cooney and Leslie Adler)

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