At the St. Paul Fairgrounds Friday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden emphasized his pledges for national unity, pandemic relief and preserving and expanding the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Biden, who announced the campaign stop Thursday following President Donald Trump’s plans to rally in Rochester, spoke to an invite-only audience, who listened from their cars parked several feet from each other — a method he has used for rallies in other states, including Iowa earlier Friday.
The visit from both candidates days before the election underscores the importance of Minnesota's 10 electoral college votes, though Biden told pool reporters he is "not concerned" about losing in the traditionally blue state. He said he wanted to add Minnesota to his Midwestern stops in Iowa and Wisconsin, adding, "We're going to work for every single vote, up 'til the last minute." Biden last visited Minnesota in September.
Throughout his 22-minute speech, Biden discussed health care, the pandemic and racial equity while also stressing his contrasting positions with Trump, pointing towards his public admission of downplaying the virus, refusal to release tax records and disparaging remarks about members of the military.
He started his speech by emphasizing the need for affordable healthcare, building on remarks by former Democratic primary candidate for Minnesota's 60A legislative district, Jessica Intermill. Intermill spoke about her experience with rheumatoid arthritis and how the Affordable Healthcare Act allowed her to access medication she says would have otherwise bankrupted her.
"It’s unconscionable that Donald Trump, from the day he got elected to right now, is fighting in court to rip that peace of mind away from tens of millions of Americans," he said, adding later, "If we all get out and vote, we’ll not only restore Obamacare, we’ll strengthen it and build on it."
Trump has yet to reveal details of his plans for healthcare. He has pledged to protect pre-existing conditions, but nonetheless his administration is supporting a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that could end the Affordable Care Act, and would potentially result in the pre-existing condition protection being removed.
With support from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis, a few groups of protesters gathered outside the event, using noisemakers to compete with Biden's voice.
"These guys are not very polite, but they are like Trump," he said, gesturing to the protesters. "But look, they’re going to be okay, we’re going to take care of them as well."
That approach to opposition was reflected throughout his speech as he presented himself as a candidate who would lead the country to national unity.
"Our campaign is a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents ... I'm running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president," he said.
He emphasized the need for a united approach to ending the coronavirus:
"We need a president who brings us together, not pull us apart. I'll deal with this pandemic responsibly, bringing the country together around testing, tracing, masking," he said. "It's estimated by the leading doctors of this country, that if we just wore a mask for the next few months, we'd save over 100,000 lives ... Dr. Fauci called for a mask mandate last week. This isn't a political statement, like those ugly folks over there beeping their horns, this is a patriotic duty, for god's sake."
He further critiqued Trump's handling of the pandemic, pointing to the September revelation that Trump told Washington Post reporter Bod Woodward in February that he intentionally downplayed the virus, claiming he didn't want to create a panic. He repeated a line from the debates: "The American people don't panic. Donald Trump panicked."
"No wonder the six generals who worked directly with the Trump administration have left, and say he does not deserve to be the Commander-in-Chief for the United States," he said. "That’s never happened to any president before."
He also discussed climate change and racial justice, pointing to the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"These protests are a cry for justice," he said, while also decrying "looting and burning" as "violence, clear and simple."
He said "true justice is also economic justice" and emphasized the need for equitable access to schooling, well-paying jobs and home ownership.
He continued: "We have to vote to ensure the full promise of this country for everyone, and finally, we have to vote to meet the challenge of the climate crisis."
To meet this challenge, he said, he would support the growth of the green energy sector, which he says could create "billions of high paying jobs" and build a "more resilient nation."
In closing, he reiterated his pledge for unity and encouraged Minnesotans to vote, asking his parked audience to "honk your horn if you want America to trust each other again."
“It’s time to stand up, take back our democracy, we can do this. We are so much better than this. We can be who we are at our best: the United States of America,” he said.