On his final day of campaigning, President Trump returned to Kenosha, Wis., a city that had provided him with a backdrop to push his message that the election was about “law and order” in the face of the Biden campaign’s effort to make it about the administration’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Hello Kenosha, it’s nice to be back. It’s nice to be back,” Trump said at an outdoor rally, where the sound system was plagued by feedback. “We spent a little time with you, a little law and order. We brought law and order to Kenosha.”
Switching microphones, Trump gave his version of the events that unfolded in the city late this summer. “When the violent mob came to Kenosha, Biden opposed sending in the National Guard,” Trump said, adding, “And then we sent in the guard and we saved Kenosha.”
Trump warned the audience that “Biden’s left-wing supporters are threatening to loot and riot tomorrow if they don’t get their way.”
On Aug. 23, after months of protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black Kenosha resident, was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha police officer. The shooting, which left Blake paralyzed, sparked protests in the city, some of which turned violent.
On Aug. 25, two protesters were shot and killed after 17-year-old murder suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, who had traveled to the protests from Lake County, Ill., allegedly opened fire on the demonstrators with a semi-automatic rifle. Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers deployed 500 National Guard troops to the city to quell the protests and riots. (Rittenhouse, who was arrested in Illinois and extradited to Wisconsin last Friday, made his first appearance before a local judge earlier in the day. He is being held on $2 million bail.)
Trump originally visited Kenosha on Sept. 1 and toured businesses that were burned down or damaged in the protests. The president said that people in Wisconsin “want to see law and order. ... They want the police to be police.”
Two days later, former Vice President Joe Biden also traveled to Kenosha, meeting with members of Blake’s family as well as community leaders.
“We’re finally now getting to a point, we’re going to be addressing the original sin of this country, 400 years old, the original sin of this country, slavery,” Biden said during remarks delivered at Grace Lutheran Church, adding “There’s a chance for a real awakening here, and the point is, I don’t think we have any alternative but to fight.”
While the unrest in Kenosha dominated headlines over that period, polls did not show Trump gaining on Biden in the state because of it. The Real Clear Politics average of polls of Wisconsin on the day Blake was shot by police showed Biden leading Trump by 4 percent. More than a month later, on Oct. 21, that lead was virtually unchanged at 4.6. By the end of October, it had grown to 6.6 percent.
Over that period, Kenosha was replaced in the news cycle by the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic across Wisconsin. New cases of COVID-19 began surging in the state at the end of September and have now topped 241,000, while deaths from COVID-19 have passed 2,050. As of Sunday, 1,534 people in Wisconsin were in the hospital being treated for COVID-19 and 3,433 new cases were reported in a single day.
Without mentioning the spike in new cases in Wisconsin or the nation as a whole, Trump repeated his message on COVID-19, saying that the nation was “rounding the curve” on the pandemic.
“We have great vaccines coming,” Trump promised his crowd in Kenosha, pledging to make experimental therapeutic drugs available to Americans with COVID-19 for free. He said his administration would quickly “eradicate the virus.”
But as he headed to his rally in Kenosha, Trump undercut his own law and order message, warning in a tweet that a U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow Pennsylvania election officials until Friday to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 would “induce violence in the streets.”
Twitter quickly added a warning to the president’s tweet that read, “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
At his second-to-last rally of the campaign, before heading to Grand Rapids, Mich., the site of his triumphant rally on election eve four years ago, Trump reprised that attack on the Supreme Court, saying that because of it, “you’re going to have a population that’s going to be very, very angry.”
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