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Donald Trump says pandemic vindicates his America First policy

The president said it highlighted the importance of moving supply lines back home from countries like China.

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President Donald Trump participates in a tour of a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment in Phoenix (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Donald Trump participates in a tour of a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment in Phoenix (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Donald Trump participates in a tour of a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment in Phoenix (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Donald Trump has said the coronavirus pandemic showed he was “right” about the importance of US manufacturing and moving supply chains out of China, as he blamed that country anew for not doing enough to slow the pandemic.

Everything I said turned out to be right,” Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo that aired on Thursday.

“These stupid supply chains that are all over the world,” Mr Trump said.

“We should have them all in the United States.”

Mr Trump’s comments came before he travels to Allentown, Pennsylvania on Thursday to highlight a US medical equipment distributor.

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President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/PA)

President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/PA)

AP/PA Images

President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/PA)

It is his second trip in as many weeks as he tries to convince the American public that it is time for states to begin to reopen, even as the virus continues to spread.

Mr Trump was due to tour Owens and Minor Inc, which the White House says has sent millions of N95 masks, surgical gowns and gloves to hospitals across the country.

While security precautions around the president have been stepped up in recent days, Mr Trump has yet to be seen in public wearing a mask.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans wear cloth face-coverings in public in situations where social distancing is difficult to prevent unknowingly spreading the virus. Trump gets tested daily.

On its website, Owens & Minor says it has implemented new procedures because of the virus, including restricting visitors to its distribution and manufacturing facilities to “business critical service and suppliers”, and requiring employees to wear personal protective equipment and undergo temperature checks.

The state also has put masking and social distancing requirements in place for all businesses that are allowed to operate, requirements that apply to employees, customers and visitors, unless that business meets a narrow exception in the governor’s order.

It is Mr Trump’s second trip to a presidential battleground state since he resumed travel as part of his effort to move on from the pandemic.

He visited a mask manufacturing line in Phoenix last week.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor Tom Wolf is under increasing pressure to roll back coronavirus restrictions after effectively containing the state’s outbreak early on, battling a Republican revolt over his stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns.

Counties have threatened to defy his orders while at least a few business owners have reopened their doors despite his warnings.

Around two million people in Pennsylvania have lost their jobs since mid-March, with food and milk giveaways drawing lines miles long.

Meanwhile, some of the out-of-work have gone two months without money because of the state’s problem-plagued online unemployment benefits portal.

Allentown, with roads connecting it to New Jersey and New York City, has become one of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus hot spots.

Wedged between Philadelphia’s suburbs, Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal country and the eastern border with New Jersey, the Allentown area has been rebounding from the collapse of the steel industry and is growing quickly.

It is a politically moderate city that has a higher household income than the rest of Pennsylvania and is attracting more high-end employers.

Mr Trump captured the state by a mere 44,000 votes four years ago.

But in a backlash against him, in 2018 the area voted for a Democrat to represent it in Congress for the first time in two decades.

Mr Trump’s campaign has been warily watching the trio of Rust Belt states that carried him to the presidency in 2016.

The so-called Blue Wall of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, meant to provide electoral college insurance for Hillary Clinton, all broke for Mr Trump by very slim margins.

His trip to Allentown will be his 18th visit to the state of Pennsylvania since taking office.

The bellwether Lehigh Valley — which saw one of its counties flip from Barack Obama to Mr Trump — will be the focus on Thursday as the president’s reelection campaign particularly as it fears an exodus of women voters in regions elsewhere in the state, including in suburban Philadelphia.

Many in the Trump campaign have all but written off Michigan, a state battered by the virus, and whose governor has repeatedly clashed with Mr Trump.

But advisers believe Pennsylvania, like Wisconsin, remains in play and could be captured again if the economy rebounds before November.

That may mean pressuring the states’ Democratic governors to ease restrictions on business, travel and public spaces — even if it risks a resurgence of the deadly virus.

The campaign has also prioritised rural and exurban voters and has prepared to blanket the airwaves with attack ads that link Joe Biden to China.

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Joe Biden was born in Pennsylvania (Niall Carson/PA)

Joe Biden was born in Pennsylvania (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Joe Biden was born in Pennsylvania (Niall Carson/PA)

The hope is, hoping to tarnish the Democrat with an association to the country where the pandemic originated and by playing up his ties to globalisation and trade deals blamed by some for closing factories in regions outside of Pittsburgh.

Top campaign advisers briefed the president late last month that his support had slipped in battleground states, particularly among older people in states with ageing populations like Pennsylvania.

But advisers believe that Mr Trump has begun to reverse that momentum in part due to his attacks on Mr Biden, his increasingly harsh anti-China rhetoric and the elimination of his daily briefings, which were blamed for rattling viewers.

Mr Trump’s visit to Allentown will put him about 75 miles from Scranton, where Mr Biden was born.

The Democrat’s campaign has become increasingly hopeful of returning Pennsylvania to the blue column, where it had been since 1992 until 2016.

Pennsylvania is 10th among states in overall infection rate, with some 59,000 confirmed cases, or roughly 450 per 100,000 residents, and nearly 4,000 deaths, according to federal statistics.

New infections have been trending down, though, and Mr Wolf has been easing restrictions in lightly affected counties — but not fast enough for some.

Mr Trump, on Monday, weighed in on the intensifying political fight Monday, tweeting: “The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails.”

Hours later, Mr Wolf threatened to punish a growing number of counties that had vowed to let many businesses reopen illegally against his orders.

The Republican National Committee accused Mr Wolf of being on a “power trip”.

PA