President Donald Trump on Tuesday night once again said the coronavirus pandemic is nearing its end, an assertion he has made for months that is flatly contradicted by rising case counts.
We're "rounding the turn on the pandemic," Trump said as he rallied before cheering supporters in Erie, one of the most hotly contested and symbolically weighted parts of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has averaged 1,460 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer analysis, the highest since mid-April.
"If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing," Trump said, pointing to the state's role as a decisive swing state.
Much of the early portion of Trump's rally repeated familiar themes, including the ones he offered in Johnstown, in Southwest Pennsylvania, last week.
He asserted that Democrat Joe Biden is corrupt, attacked the news media and made false assertions that Biden plans to ban fracking, reinforced with video snippets. (Biden has repeatedly said he would not ban existing fracking operations, but would stop new permits on federal land.)
Erie County, with a proud but diminished manufacturing tradition in the state's northwest corner, has been a nationally watched bellwether ever since it swung sharply in 2016, shifting from its solidly Democratic past to narrowly favor Trump.
The swing from President Barack Obama to Trump - 21,000 votes in all - was one of the biggest in Pennsylvania and crystallized Trump's appeal to white working-class voters who had seen their economic fortunes sag. It helped power Trump to narrow but decisive victories in the industrial Midwest, including a razor-thin 44,000 vote victory in Pennsylvania.
Now, members of both parties are looking to Erie for clues about how strongly Trump has retained his hold on those voters, or if some will slip back to Democrats.
Trump, trailing in the polls, has placed a heavy emphasis on consolidating his blue-collar base.