WASHINGTON — Speaking to workers at a shipbuilding facility in Wisconsin, President Donald Trump touted American manufacturing and took credit for helping to design a better-looking class of U.S. Navy warships.
"The ships that they were building, they look terrible," Trump told workers of Fincantieri Marinette Marine on Thursday. "I would change designs, I looked at it. I said, 'That's a terrible looking ship, let's make it beautiful.'"
"You know, sometimes, you can make it look great for less money. I said, 'This is not a good looking ship. Let's change the design of it,'" he continued. "And I got people in, and we looked at different designs, and as long as we're going to do it and look at what you're doing, how beautiful it is."
"It's like a yacht with missiles on it," the president said of the American-built warships.
Trump has long pledged to bring manufacturing back from overseas, equating that effort with American renewal. At the shipyard, he said the future of the facility had looked bleak not long ago but "then a lot of good things came along."
"Manufacturing, remember, manufacturing was never going to come back. Well, it did come back. It came back big," Trump said.
His remarks come on the heels of a $5.5 billion Pentagon contract to shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine for the U.S. Navy's newest class of warships. According to the contract, which was awarded in April, the Navy frigates will be built at Fincantieri's shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, which currently produces the U.S. Navy's littoral combat ships.
The Pentagon estimated the first ship would cost $1.2 billion. The nine subsequent ships would cost up to approximately $781 million, in 2018 constant dollars, Navy officials said in an April call with reporters.
Trump's visit to Wisconsin came as election polls in the crucial swing state show him hemorrhaging support to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
A New York Times/Siena College poll released Thursday found Biden leading Trump in Wisconsin by 11 points. Trump narrowly beat out Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, turning the state red for the first time in a presidential contest since 1988.
The Times' poll shows the president is also trailing Biden in five other battleground states that Trump won in 2016. The president's largely ad-libbed remarks before a cheering crowd at the Wisconsin shipyard gave the event the look and feel of a campaign stop as much as a presidential visit.
Biden, who traveled to the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Thursday, said Trump did not deserve credit for the success of the area he was visiting.
"Today, Donald Trump is in Marinette to take credit for Obama-Biden administration-fueled successes in an attempt to paper over the fact that Wisconsin has been bleeding blue-collar manufacturing jobs over the past few weeks," he said in a statement. "Instead of offering real relief to working families, he's trying to claim credit for progress in Marinette he did not build."
The trip came days after the Trump campaign resumed the boisterous arena rallies that defined his 2016 campaign but had been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic. While both Trump and Biden have been cleared off the campaign trail, polls show Trump falling badly behind the former vice president as voters sour on the incumbent's handling of the virus and his reaction to the civil unrest over George Floyd's death.
At this point in the cycle, no other Republican or Democratic nominee in the last four elections was as far ahead of their opponent as Biden is against Trump, according to CNBC's averages of polls posted to RealClearPolitics.
-- Reuters contributed to this report.