ATGLEN, Pa. (AP) — Melania Trump lined up squarely with her husband Tuesday on her first solo trip of the 2020 campaign, slamming Joe Biden, Democrats and the media as she pushed the president’s reeelection message in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
The first lady defended Donald Trump’s record on COVID-19 even as he continues to play down the threat of a virus that has killed more than 226,000 Americans. She sought to shift the blame to Democrats, who she said tried to “put their own agendas ahead of the American people’s well-being” and focused on a “sham impeachment” instead of the coronavirus.
Mrs. Trump also denounced what she called Biden’s “socialist agenda” and criticized media coverage of “idle gossip and palace intrigue” in the White House.
Biden’s “policies and socialist agenda will only serve to destroy America and all that has been built in the past four years,” she said. “We must keep Donald in the White House so he can finish what he’s started and our country can continue to flourish.”
The first lady, who recently recovered from what she has described as a mild case of COVID-19, appeared on a day when Pennsylvania health authorities reported a recording-shattering 2,751 new virus infections statewide. COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in Pennsylvania have more than doubled since the beginning of October.
Mrs. Trump also struck an empathetic tone on the virus, calling herself a “worried mother and wife” who knows “there are many people who have lost loved ones or know people who have been forever impacted by this silent enemy.”
But she defended her husband’s handling of the virus and said his administration “chooses to keep moving forward during this pandemic, not backward,” insisting that schools, restaurants and businesses have learned to operate safely during the pandemic.
“We don’t close down and hide in fear. We get to work to find real and lasting solutions,” she said.
The first lady’s event 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Philadelphia drew a couple of hundred supporters who piled into a converted barn typically used for wedding receptions. Two large doors at the rear were opened to allow fresh air into the building. The overwhelming majority of those in attendance wore masks, but there was little social distancing.
Pennsylvania Democratic Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills ridiculed Mrs. Trump’s campaign stop, saying the first lady would not have an answer for Pennsylvania’s soaring unemployment rate or why her husband’s administration has “stopped trying to combat a virus that’s killed 8,700 Pennsylvanians and counting.”
Afterward, the first lady stopped at a local Republican headquarters where she thanked envelope-stuffing campaign volunteers with pizza and soda. “Let’s hope we win Pennsylvania,” she said.
Mrs. Trump spoke one day after the president held three rallies in Pennsylvania, a state that helped deliver him the White House in 2016 and one that is key to his reelection bid. Polls show a tight race in the state between Trump and Biden, who also visited the state Monday to boost get-out-the-vote efforts.
President Trump and the first lady flew together on Marine One from the White House to Joint Base Andrews before boarding planes for separate campaign trips.
“I’d like to go with her and be with her,” Trump said. “She’s going to make a speech in Pennsylvania. That’s great. She does very well, very popular.”
Associated Press Writer Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this story.