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Biden hits Trump on trade, economy in Ohio speech: 'He's let you down'

Trade policy remains a big issue in Ohio, where polls show a tight race.
Image: Biden campaigns in Ohio
Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Toledo, Ohio, on Oct. 12, 2020.Rebecca Cook / Reuters

Joe Biden on Monday slammed President Donald Trump for having "let down" American workers and unions, while pledging to utilize a "trade strategy" that "gets results."

Speaking to a group of autoworkers in Toledo, Ohio, Biden claimed Trump’s "chaotic trade threats, erratic tweets, and bluster" had "stiffed American workers and consumers."

"He’s let you down. I will stand up to China’s trade abuses. I will invest in you," Biden said during a drive-in campaign rally outside a United Auto Workers union hall.

The speech was met with protests from about a dozen Trump supporters who showed up near the rally, chanting "four more years" and "Trump" loudly enough that they could be heard over the remarks.

Trump later tweeted a video of the group, writing "Joe Biden has let the Unions down — always has, always will!"

Negotiating new trade deals, one of Trump's key 2016 promises, has been a priority throughout his presidency. After having run in heavily industrial states like Ohio on an "America First" message with promises to renegotiate trade deals he’d said allowed auto and steel factories to flee, Trump entered the U.S. into a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. And, following a trade war with China, he entered the U.S. into a Phase One deal with them, as well.

Those developments, however, have not helped bring jobs back to hard-stricken areas like northeastern Ohio and the Toledo area, where a number of manufacturing jobs had been lost. The unemployment rate in both regions was higher than the national rate, even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S.

Biden’s trade proposals during the presidential race have also pushed a message of economic nationalism that focuses on reviving American manufacturing and that was specifically designed to counter Trump’s "America First" policies.

Biden’s proposals call for updating "the trade rules for Buy American," and "working with allies to modernize international trade rules and associated domestic regulations regarding government procurement to make sure that the U.S. and allies can use their own taxpayer dollars to spur investment in their own countries." His "Build Back Better" plan calls for directing $400 billion in federal procurement spending on American-made products while tightening enforcement of "Buy American" provisions.

Later, during a second campaign stop in Cincinnati, Biden, at a rare indoor event, took aim at Trump over his response to the Covid-19 pandemic and criticized him over his failure to address systemic racism in the U.S.

“Every generation has moved closer and closer to inclusion. It's the first one, elected president [who] deliberately tried to turn it back,” he said.

He also slammed Senate Republicans for holding confirmation hearings, which began Monday, for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

Republicans have "time to hold a hearing on the Supreme Court with 22 days left to go instead of providing significant economic recovery and needs for the people who are hurting so badly," he said.

Trump flipped Ohio red in 2016 after the state went for Barack Obama twice, and both campaigns have targeted it with trade policy messaging in recent weeks, with polls there showing a tight race.

Voters in northeastern Ohio told NBC News last month that they still felt abandoned by Biden. Democrats in Ohio, as well as political pundits, urged Biden to visit the state to push his economic message.

Vice President Mike Pence was in the state earlier Monday, holding a rally in Columbus. Early voting in Ohio began on October 6.