President predicts another surprise win in Wisconsin even as coronavirus cases rise in the state, in the nation, and in his wake.
President Donald Trump’s rally in Waukesha Saturday night was his fifth campaign stop to the Badger State this election season, symbolic of his belief the presidential election will go the way of Wisconsin on Election Day.
“By the way. You have to get out and vote,” Trump told the crowd of roughly 3,000 at Waukesha County Airport. “I’m out here —what the hell time is it? And it’s freezing. If I don’t win this state, I’m going to be very mad at you.”
Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes. As the temperature dropped to just above freezing and darkness fell, the crowd waited as Trump arrived more than an hour late to his third rally of the day.
Trump trails former Vice President and Democratic challenger Joe Biden by a 5-point deficit—46% to 41% among likely Wisconsin voters surveyed—in the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll from Oct. 7. In 2016, the Marquette and most national polls had Trump consistently trailing his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, and he did trail her in the popular vote but won the electoral vote by razor-thin margins in states like Wisconsin.
Trump told the crowd the polls were wrong then and will prove to be wrong Nov. 3.
“You don’t remember four years ago? We are going to win by a lot more,” Trump said.
Trump’s 80-minute long speech was heavy on Wisconsin-specific references, including a shout out to the Green Bay Packers and repeated claims he had “saved Kenosha” following the rallies after the shooting of Kenosha resident Jacob Blake by a police officer.
The president did not shy away from the coronavirus pandemic that is now infecting more Americans per day than ever before, nor did he retreat from again falsely claiming the country is “rounding the turn” on the outbreak, nor from repeating the falsehood that the nation’s rising number of COVID-19 cases is a result of increased testing.
“You know why we have cases?” Trump asked. “’Cause we test so much. And in many ways, it’s good. And in many ways, it’s foolish. In many ways, OK? In many ways it’s very foolish.”
Trump went a step further and baselessly accused healthcare workers of inflating COVID-19 statistics for financial gain by over-classifying coronavirus deaths because “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money”—even though there is no evidence of that. If anything, experts say, the death count is likely underreported.
The state Department of Health Services reported 4,062 new coronavirus cases and 25 deaths Saturday, bringing the total number of deaths in Wisconsin to 1,770. Saturday marked the fourth time Wisconsin has recorded more than 4,000 new coronavirus infections in a single day. In the past 14 days, 305 Wisconsin lives have been lost to COVID-19.
Health officials are bracing for a likely uptick in coronavirus cases in the wake of the rally. A USA Today analysis of Trump’s previous stops shows a surge in cases that outpaces surrounding areas. In the two weeks after Trump’s rally in Mosinee last month, COVID-19 cases rose 29% across Wisconsin; they shot up 67% over that same period in Marathon County.
Biden hammered Trump on his pandemic response in a statement prior to the Saturday rally.
“President Trump knew the severity of this virus and failed to tell the American people the truth,” Biden said. “Time and time again, he consistently downplayed the threat of the virus and has shown he is unwilling and unable to do the hard work to get it under control. It is what it is because of who he is.”
Supporters brought up the economy, immigration, and health care as reasons for voting for Trump in 2020. Many supporters related back to rhetoric that Trump has spread in the past.
Patricia Peck, who drove up from Hartland, referred to COVID-19 in the U.S. as a “planned-demic,” offering up a conspiracy theory that the virus was manufactured.
“He’s doing the best he can, with what he’s got to work with,” Peck said about the president’s response to the pandemic.
Ian Cane, a 19-year-old college student from Illinois, said he was voting for Trump because he supported Trump’s political views.
“He couldn’t have handled it any better,” Cane said. “You can’t just shut down the economy. All the small businesses are being ruined because less people are going to them.”
He said his plans were to finish college and find a job if Trump won.
A lone woman protesting the rally stood with a sign outside of the Hallmark Building Supplies site where droves of Trump supporters crossed the street to get into the airport parking lot.
The woman, who did not want to be identified over concerns she would be targeted by Trump supporters, said that she wanted to give her dissenting opinion and that she was a supporter of racial and sexual equality.
“Human rights are important to me. It shouldn’t be up for debate and it seems like it’s going to be.”
Biden said with in-person, early voting underway in Wisconsin, voters now “have the opportunity to finally turn the page on President Trump’s failures and excuses.”
“On day one, I’ll take action to tackle this crisis and build the economy back better for Wisconsin families and small businesses,” Biden said. “Together, we can defeat President Trump and restore the soul of our nation.”
Trump will be back in Wisconsin for a rally in West Salem on Tuesday.
Ethan Duran and the Associated Press contributed to this report.