(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump used a Pennsylvania rally to vent his anger at an FBI search of his Florida home and President Joe Biden’s attack on political extremism, staking his claim as his successor’s election rival in 2024.
Declaring Biden an “enemy of the state,” Trump mixed support for two Republican candidates with a rejoinder to the president’s speech 48 hours earlier in Philadelphia, where Biden denounced what he called anti-democratic forces within the Trump movement.
“Joe Biden came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to give the most vicious, hateful and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president,” the former president said on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre. “His speech was hatred and anger.”
Trump then launched into a grievance-filled speech about the FBI search, the five-year-old investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, former opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails, the outcome of the 2020 election, crime rates, the Mexican border and the social-media giants his own company is now competing with — while lavishing praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“We’re going to take back America and take back America,” Trump said. “And in 2024, most importantly, we are going to take back our magnificent White House.”
Taking aim at the FBI, he claimed that the Biden administration “invaded the home of their chief political opponent, who is absolutely destroying him in the polls.”
“This egregious abuse of the law is going to produce a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen before,” Trump said.
Trump’s claim was contradicted by an Aug. 17-25 poll by the Wall Street Journal — taken after the Mar-a-Lago search — that showed Biden leading the former president in a hypothetical rematch of the 2020 election by 50% to 44%. The two had been tied in March.
Trump’s speech ostensibly was to support Republicans Doug Mastriano for governor and Mehmet Oz for the US Senate, candidates he endorsed in primary elections this spring. Both candidates are lagging in the polls, with control of the US Senate and a key 2024 battleground state hanging in the balance.
Trump’s speech focused on the presidency, framing the November midterm elections as “a referendum on the corruption and extremism of Joe Biden and the radical Democrat party.” In a speech that lasted almost two hours and began 40 minutes late, the former president broke little new ground while airing familiar grievances.
About 70 minutes in, Trump finally laid into Oz’s opponent, Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, whom he called a “spoiled and entitled socialist loser.”
“John Fetterman is the most dangerous Democrat seeking to join Congress this year and one of the most fringe far-left freak shows ever to seek election in any state,” Trump said.
“More and more lies from Trump and Dr. Oz,” Fetterman’s campaign said in a response.
Despite an enthusiastic crowd in northeast Pennsylvania, Trump’s blustery speech found a smaller national audience for his message as the top-rated Fox News declined to cover the speech live.
Trump delivered a largely familiar stump routine in which he riffed about wind energy, electric cars, the stock market and the air conditioning at Wilkes-Barre’s Mohegan Sun Arena.
Trump’s endorsement of Oz over former Bridgewater Associates Chief Executive David McCormick in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary in May propelled Oz to a 951-vote victory after an automatic recount. But Oz has sputtered in the general election race against Fetterman, even though the lieutenant governor was off the campaign trail after suffering a stroke in April.
Biden traveled to Pennsylvania twice last week and is scheduled to return on Labor Day, including a stop in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, a few miles from Trump’s rally. Biden beat Trump by 80,555 votes in Pennsylvania in 2020 after Trump carried the commonwealth by 44,292 votes in the 2016 election.
(Updates with recent poll findings in eighth paragraph)