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'It's go time, folks': Joe Biden campaigns in Bucks County

Anthony DiMattia Marion Callahan
Bucks County Courier Times

Joe Biden came to town Saturday.

The former vice president brought his campaign to Lower Bucks, delivering a wide-ranging speech that went on the attack against President Donald Trump's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and also touched on the economy, fracking and health care.

A Scranton native, Biden highlighted his Pennsylvania roots, while joking that he's known more as "Jill Biden's husband" in Bucks County. Jill Biden is from Willow Grove in nearby Montgomery County. 

"It's go time, folks," he said. "We have 10 days left. It may come down to Pennsylvania. And I believe in you. I believe in my state."

Crowds began converging on the Bucks County Community College's Lower Bucks campus on Route 413 in Bristol Township early Saturday morning to take part in the drive-in rally. 

The event was limited to the large parking lot on the campus and participants largely stayed by their cars, similar to the drive-in rally President Barack Obama held earlier this week in Philadelphia. Some 170 cars filled the lot.

But the crowds at the college weren't all Biden supporters, as hundreds of Trump backers surrounded the perimeter of the parking lot to greet Biden fans as they exited the rally. 

Trump supporters gather outside former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign rally Saturday in Bristol Township.

Both campaigns have targeted the swing district of Bucks and its nearby suburbs, which Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016.

The region will be to key to any victory in Pennsylvania, where its 20 electoral votes are projected to make it one of the most crucial states in the election.

The latest visit came after Jill Biden stopped by Snipes Farm and Education Center in Falls on Monday to encourage women to come out early and vote.

Trump too is expected to come to Bucks on Saturday after planned trips to Blair and Lancaster counties on Monday.

A Joe Biden supporter is ready with her sign at the rally Saturday in Bristol Township

Biden took the stage around 11:40 a.m. following his wife, whose own speech was heavy on education and called out teachers in the crowd. The former vice president was introduced by Tara Huber, a Neshaminy School District teacher and president of the district's teachers union.

"This is the election of our lives," Huber said. "Our profession that we love is on the line. The future of public education is on the line. The health and safety and well-being of our families is also on the line."

In a speech that lasted just over 20 minutes, Biden hammered Trump on his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying "it's going to be a dark winter ahead unless we change our way."

Former Vice President Joe Biden brought his campaign to Bucks County Saturday, holding a car rally at the Lower Bucks campus of Bucks County Community College in Bristol Township.

"Yesterday, while he was telling us everything's all right, we saw the highest number, 85,000 new cases, in one day, since this pandemic began," he said.

"At the debate on Thursday night, Donald Trump said and is still saying, 'We're rounding the corner. It's going away. We're learning to live with it.' We're not learning how to live with it. You're asking us to learn how to die with it."

Bucks is one of 11 counties in the state in the top 20% nationally for both the increase in unemployment rates from the year prior and deaths per capita linked to COVID-19, according to a Friday report by the Wall Street Journal.

"Times are hard. Unemployment is way up," Biden said. "Folks are worried about making their next rent or mortgage payment, whether their health care will be ripped away in the middle of a pandemic."

Joe Biden took the stage around 11:40 a.m. following his wife, whose own speech was heavy on education and called out teachers in the crowd. The former vice president was introduced by Tara Huber, a Neshaminy School District teacher and president of the district's teachers union.

The most recent figures from August show Bucks with an unemployment rate of 9.7%, more than twice the percentage of 4.3% at the same time in 2019. The peak unemployment rate this year was 15% when shutdowns first occurred in April. 

As of Friday, the county reported 9,154 confirmed positive cases, 694 probable cases, 113,294 negative results and 624 deaths, according to the state COVID-19 dashboard.

In neighboring Montgomery County, the unemployment rate was at 9% in August after hitting a high of 4% in the same month the year prior. At its peak in April unemployment was at 13.6%.

The most recent figures from the state show 13,1342 confirmed cases, 86 probable cases, 170,032 negative results and 893 deaths.

During his speech, the former vice president, who also voiced his support for unions, said middle-class taxes wouldn't be raised but corporations would have to "pay their fair share," and disputed President Trump's assertions that he would ban fracking. 

"I'm not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else," Biden said. "I can protect Pennsylvania jobs, period."

Ahead of Biden taking the stage, former U.S. Rep. Jim Greenwood, a Republican who has endorsed Biden, also spoke, and congressional candidate Christina Finello helped introduce the candidate.

Fracking, the economy and COVID-19 were among the topics Joe Biden addressed during his campaign rally Saturday in Bristol Township.

Greenwood said he is one of dozens of former members of Congress supporting Biden. “Donald Trump is no Republican, he’s not Democrat, he’s not independent,” he said.

Finello asked voters to send a fifth Democratic woman from the state to Congress, referring to the four women that Southeast Pennsylvania elected in 2018. They were part of a blue wave that swept much of the country during mid-term elections.

She is in a tight race with GOP incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick in the 1st Congressional District, which covers Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County.

"Joe knows us, and he and Kamala Harris will fight for us, and I'm going to join them in Washington next year," she said. 

The campaign is focusing on Democratic-controlled places like the Philadelphia suburbs as well as others such as Luzerne County in battleground Pennsylvania that went to Obama in 2012 but swung to Trump in 2016.

“All eyes are on here,” said John Cordisco, chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Party on Friday. “I think it speaks to the significance of Bucks County."

More:Jill Biden comes to Bucks County seeking women's vote in Pennsylvania

More:President Trump delays visit to Bucks County

Both candidates have made recent visits to Erie, with Biden speaking with union workers in the region Oct. 10, and Trump is reported to be making his own trip Oct. 31. They also have made stops elsewhere in the commonwealth in the past few weeks. 

Trump currently trails Biden from 3 to 10 points in what could be the most important state in the election, according to fivethirtyeight.com.

The website gives Biden an 87% of winning the state, which is a similar number it projected for Clinton in 2016. 

With the win, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the Keystone State since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

While Bucks is one of four counties surrounding Philadelphia that have historically voted Democratic, Clinton's margin of victory in the county was less than 2,000 votes in 2016, according to politico.com.

Trump pulled off the slim victory by winning 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in 2016 when he won the state by just over 44,000 votes, showing his appeal in blue portions of the state. 

However, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Delaware counties went overwhelmingly for Democrats in the 2018 midterms in congressional, legislative and county races.

Across the state, more than 9 million have registered, including 4.2 million Democratic and 3.5 million Republican voters before Monday's deadline, which came as the Supreme Court ruled that absentee ballots can be received up to three days beyond Election Day.

The tally was a 3% increase from the voter count at the last presidential election. 

Of Bucks' 483,590 registered voters, 207,727 are Democratic, 196,476 are Republican, 54,013 are unaffiliated and 25,374 are other, according to the most recent data from the state.

In Montgomery County, there are 300,052 Democratic, 210,035 Republican, 58,764 unaffiliated and 35,386 other voters for a total of 604,237.