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Labor Day bringing Biden to Harrisburg

ALEXANDRA JAFFE and KATHLEEN RONAYNE
Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden waves to media as he leaves St. Joseph On the Brandywine Catholic Church after attending Mass in Wilmington, Del., Sunday Sept. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WILMINGTON, Del. — Democratic candidate Joe Biden is collecting a trio of Labor Day endorsements from organized labor while running mate Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence are set to campaign in Wisconsin as the 2020 presidential race, disrupted for months by the pandemic, enters its final phase.

Biden was heading Monday to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for an AFL-CIO virtual town hall with union President Richard Trumka. President Donald Trump had no public events on his holiday calendar.

Both campaigns see Wisconsin as a prize that could be pivotal. Harris will meet IBEW union workers and Black business owners in Milwaukee, while Pence will tour an energy facility in La Crosse. Trump’s narrow win in Wisconsin in 2016 helped to send him to the White House.

According to details shared first with The Associated Press, the Biden campaign will announce three union endorsements: the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the International Union of Elevator Constructors and the National Federation of Federal Employees, collectively representing hundreds of thousands of union workers nationwide who can be mobilized to support the campaign. The Biden campaign believes its labor support could help get out the vote in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, file photo, Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign event on the grounds of Kuharchik Construction, Inc., in Exeter, Pa. Labor Day kicks off the unofficial start to fall election campaign. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Labor Day typically marks the unofficial start to the fall campaign season as candidates accelerate their activity for the final sprint to Election Day. But Monday’s events are playing out this year against the backdrop of a pandemic that has upended campaigning, forcing much of the candidates’ traditional activity online.

Indeed, this marks Harris’ first solo foray out on the campaign trail for in-person events since she was announced as Biden’s running mate nearly a month ago. But Biden himself has stepped up his campaigning over the past week, traveling to Pittsburgh and Kenosha, Wisconsin, and holding two news conferences. Aides say to expect both Biden and Harris to increase their campaigning for the remaining weeks.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, file photo, Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. Labor Day kicks off the unofficial start to fall election campaign. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

While the presidential campaign was roiled this past week by multiple reports recounting comments Trump allegedly made disparaging fallen soldiers, as well as the police shooting and violent protests in Kenosha, the focus on Labor Day is likely to return to the issue that polls consistently find at the top of voters’ minds: the economy.

A strong economy that was Trump’s biggest asset for reelection has now become a potential liability, brought down by the coronavirus. The Biden campaign has emphasized the economic damage wrought by what Biden argues was an inadequate response to the pandemic that resulted in more loss of life and jobs than necessary. It’s a line both Biden and Harris are likely to push while speaking to union voters.

The U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from its epic collapse in the spring as many businesses have reopened and rehired some laid-off employees. Yet the recovery is far from complete. Only about half the 22 million jobs that vanished in the pandemic have been recovered.

Economic inequalities also appear to have widened, with lower-income and minority workers suffering disproportionately while affluent Americans have lost fewer jobs and even benefited from rising stock and home prices.