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Joe Biden Embarks On A Train To Campaign In Ohio And Pennsylvania

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The worst presidential debate in history is just one of the ways last night's debate between Joe Biden and President Trump is being described. The evening featured interruptions and crosstalk, mostly from President Trump. And now both of the major party candidates are back on the campaign trail. Trump heads to Minnesota this evening, while Democrat Joe Biden is on a train tour, riding through eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow is riding those rails with Biden today. And he joins us now, train sound in the background and all.

Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: (Laughter) Hey there. There's a big freight train going by. We're in Greensburg, Penn., right now, where Biden is getting off the Amtrak train right this moment.

SHAPIRO: All right. Well, President Trump spoke to reporters this afternoon, saying he thought that Biden looked very weak. And the president said he thought the debate was great with good reviews. Joe Biden did not characterize the debate the same way. Tell us what his campaign is saying.

DETROW: Yeah, Biden said that he had expected President Trump to attack and interrupt. And to Biden, he says it really clarified why he got into this race to begin with.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: The president of the United States conducted himself the way he did. I think it was just a national embarrassment.

DETROW: This is the theme Biden has been repeating all day in Ohio and now in Pennsylvania - that he was there at the debate stage to talk to the American people, that he wants to deal with real problems - like a pandemic, like health care - and that President Trump, as he showed last night, is focused on himself. Biden did make it clear that he does expect to be at the next two debates. He says that next one, a town hall format where voters ask questions, is particularly important. But Biden did say that he wanted to see changes. He wanted to see some sort of way for the moderator to allow the two candidates to have their actual speaking time. And we did see a statement from the Commission on Presidential Debates that they're working on some sort of way to make that rule a little more clear than it was last night.

SHAPIRO: Did Biden say anything about a couple of the most significant moments in the debate, such as the president attacking the integrity of the election and refusing to disavow white supremacy?

DETROW: Yes, he talked about both. Biden said he is confident that President Trump would vacate office if he loses. And Biden urged his supporters to show up and vote. He says he is hoping for a big, decisive clear win.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: I promise you if, in fact, we win this election, this president will step down. It's a lot of bravado. He has no alternative.

DETROW: There is a political dynamic here. Biden does not want his supporters to be turned off, to be discouraged, to think that their vote doesn't matter. On that other point, Biden also spoke about how the president seemed to encourage and, certainly, nowhere near condemn the white supremacist group the Proud Boys. Biden says his message to that group would be cease and desist.

We should note that President Trump was asked by reporters about this. He said he didn't know who the Proud Boys are. He said, quote, "I can only say they have to stand down. Let law enforcement do their work." But that is not what the president said in front of a massive audience last night.

SHAPIRO: You know, in a normal campaign, a train tour or a bus tour wouldn't be that noteworthy. But in a pandemic, it's something we haven't seen that much of. So tell us about this trip that you're on right now.

DETROW: Absolutely. Biden has been doing events since June. But this is the first expanded multi-stop swing that we've seen. He's making his way through Ohio and Pennsylvania. And like all Biden events since the pandemic began, these are controlled, small crowds. But really, this is the first time that he's been doing multiple stops, giving the same stump speech, getting out and meeting with supporters, something that he'd be doing over and over again in normal times. And beyond the nostalgia of a whistle-stop tour, this is the exact type of swing that Hillary Clinton was criticized for not doing much of. Biden is going to places like Latrobe, Johnstown, Penn., places that really voted heavily for Donald Trump in 2016. He's still trying to get his message out here and saying he is someone who cares about the working class as well.

SHAPIRO: That is national political correspondent Scott Detrow from the Amtrak line in Pennsylvania.

Thanks, Scott.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.