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Trump decries state of economy in Wisconsin city where his promise of jobs fell short

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By Gram Slattery

RACINE, Wisconsin (Reuters) -Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sought to present himself as the best candidate for the U.S. economy at a Tuesday rally in Racine, Wisconsin, where a local factory that he broke ground on six years ago has proven to be a major flop.

The former president also vowed to quickly reverse a plan announced by Democratic President Joe Biden earlier in the day that would give hundreds of thousands of people in the country illegally a pathway to citizenship.

“When I am re-elected, Joe Biden’s amnesty plan will be ripped apart and thrown out,” Trump said of the immigration order, which applies to certain spouses of U.S. citizens and some children.

Trump was in the largely working-class, lakeside city of Racine in 2018 to celebrate what was expected to be a $10 billion investment by Taiwanese technology group Foxconn. During his 2017 to 2021 term, Trump touted the facility, designed to produce TVs, as an example of how his “America First” policies had rejuvenated American manufacturing.

But while Foxconn originally forecast 13,000 new jobs at the factory, the company now expects to create only about 1,500 positions. Vacant fields west of downtown Racine, threaded by empty roadways, serve as a local symbol of unmet promises.

The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, previously said that it changed its plans due to a reduction in projected demand for the factory’s products.

Trump did not mention Foxconn on Tuesday. Instead, he focused on high inflation and mortgage rates, which have dented Biden’s popularity, including in politically competitive states like Wisconsin.

“Nobody can buy a house anymore. The American dream is dead. The interest rates are through the roof,” Trump said to a crowd assembled on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Foxconn’s underwhelming debut, however, has opened up a line of attack for local and national Democrats who say Trump failed to live up to his economic promises. They are hoping that message resonates in Wisconsin, one of just a handful of states expected to decide the outcome of the Nov. 5 election.

According to an average of surveys maintained by polling website FiveThirtyEight, Trump leads Biden in Wisconsin by 0.2 percentage points, despite having lost the state in 2020, and the two candidates are competing furiously for every vote.

Biden was in Racine last month to tout the construction of a $3.3 billion Microsoft data center in a location where Foxconn was supposed to build part of its manufacturing campus.

“Foxconn turned out to be just that – a con,” Biden told supporters at Gateway Technical College’s Sturtevant campus.

Still, Trump has a solid base of local support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created.

Anthony Eckman, a 28-year-old who is unemployed, said he was disappointed when a warehouse position he planned to apply for at Foxconn failed to materialize.

But he said his personal finances have worsened under Biden, and he will likely vote for Trump this year, despite sitting out the last election.

“I wish we had better candidates this year, but Biden showed no signs of improving this country in my opinion,” Eckman said. “I think I’m gonna be voting for Trump this year.”

In a statement, the Trump campaign blamed Biden for failing to control inflation and boost wages.

“Joe Biden’s policies have led to higher prices, lower wages, and a stalled manufacturing industry for American families – and they’ve translated to rock-bottom approval for Biden across Wisconsin,” said spokesperson Anna Kelly.

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

IMMIGRANT CRACKDOWN

Trump’s speech came hours after Biden announced a new effort to provide a pathway to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the U.S. illegally who are married to U.S. citizens.

The new Biden program will be open to an estimated 500,000 spouses who have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years as of June 17, officials said on Tuesday. Some 50,000 children under age 21 with a U.S.-citizen parent also will be eligible.

Trump at his rally again connected illegal immigration to violent crime, though there is no evidence that immigrants illegally in the country commit crimes at higher rates than U.S. citizens.

Racine is just south of Milwaukee, and it is considered politically competitive even by Wisconsin standards. Trump beat the Democratic nominee in both 2016 and 2020 by about 4 percentage points, while former Democratic President Barack Obama narrowly won the county in 2008 and 2012.

Last week, Trump called Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will take place next month, a “horrible city” during a meeting with Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

His campaign said he was referring to violent crime and alleged election security issues in the city when he made that comment. On Tuesday, Trump sought to dispel any notion that he dislikes Wisconsin’s largest city.

“I love Milwaukee!” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. “These lying people, they say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t like Milwaukee.’ I love Milwaukee.”

(Reporting by Gram Slattery, Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh and Alexandra Ulmer, editing by Colleen Jenkins and Deepa Babington)

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