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Reporters with the USA Today Network in Pennsylvania held a virtual town hall to answer questions about voting in the election Nov. 3. York Daily Record

'I do not believe we have to choose between law and order and racial justice in America,' Biden said. 'We can have both.'

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With the fall-trimmed acres of the Gettysburg battlefield behind him, Joe Biden evoked the memory of Abraham Lincoln and one of the most poignant speeches in American history. 

In a speech much longer than Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Biden said the U.S. is again a house divided and called for unity as racial tensions and political divisions over the coronavirus burn throughout the nation. 

"I do not believe we have to choose between law and order and racial justice in America," Biden said Tuesday. "We can have both."

Voices of the voters: Hear what people across the Northeast are saying about the presidential election

Ballot 'chaos' and voting 'sabotage': Why Biden and Trump are both afraid of Pennsylvania

The Democratic nominee also reminded the nation why he was motivated to run for president. 

"It was hate on the march in America," he said referring to a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. "Hate never goes away. It only hides."

As president, Biden said, he would fight hate and fear.

"There is no place for hate in America," he said. "It will be given no license. It will be given no oxygen. It will be given no safe harbor."

Biden's speech Tuesday comes as a new Monmouth University poll shows him with a double-digit lead over President Donald J. Trump in battleground Pennsylvania, which is considered to be one of the most important states in the election. 

Monmouth poll: Biden lead over Trump balloons in Pennsylvania over last month

The former vice president continues to outpace Trump in state polls, widening his lead each month. Biden's highest marks are for his leadership on the coronavirus, trustworthiness and character. 

During his speech Tuesday at The Lodges at Gettysburg, a 63-acre event space in Adams County, Biden tried to appeal to those voters even more with his empathy. He repeated a theme that proved well-received earlier in the week, saying he would be a president even for those who didn't vote for him. 

"The pandemic isn't a red or blue state issue," Biden said. "It affects us all and can take anyone's life. It's a virus. It's not a political weapon."

He said it's estimated another 210,000 Americans could lose their lives to COVID-19 by the end of the year, repeating warnings from the nation's leading infectious disease experts. 

Biden called for setting partisanship aside. 

"Let's end the politics and follow the science," he said. "Wearing a mask is not a political statement. It's a scientific recommendation."

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A county divided

But supporters for Trump and Biden remained divided outside of The Lodges on Camp Gettysburg Road. 

About 40 Trump supporters — most dressed in red, white and blue — cheered for "four more years" as about half that many Biden supporters from Gettysburg College were yelling, "ridin' with Biden."

"We wanted to give Vice President Biden a real Adams County welcome," said Walt Tuchalski, the Adams County Republican Committee communications coordinator. "And we're doing that with our Trump flags, signs and our chants." 

Helen Cook and other Biden supporters had started to gather in Lincoln Square at about 1:30 p.m. 

As she held her sign, she chanted, "Vote him out" and "Trump lies, people die."

Cook is the president of the Adams County Democratic Federation of Women and lives in East Berlin, Pennsylvania. 

"And I feel like I live in East Berlin," she said, referencing the former Soviet sector of Berlin.

Gettysburg presidential visits

Biden is unlikely to win reliably red Adams County, but he was speaking to the nation as other presidents have when they've visited Gettysburg. 

Trump visited Gettysburg two weeks before the 2016 election to lay out his vision for his first 100 days in office, calling for a stronger military and a border wall paid for by Mexico. He also used the speech to say he would sue women who had accused him of sexual assault. 

During his reelection campaign, Trump has referred to Gettysburg numerous times and even considered using Gettysburg National Military Park as the site of his acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention. 

More: Why is Gettysburg on Trump's list? 'It's the history'

President Eisenhower had a farm in Gettysburg that became a satellite location during his presidency, where he hosted state leaders and vacationed with his family. 

President Kennedy toured the battlefield and was asked to deliver an address on the 100th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1963. He declined because of a scheduled trip he had to Dallas, where he was assassinated.  

Several other presidents have visited Gettysburg, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and more. 

"Lyndon B. Johnson also came here and here's what he said," Biden said Tuesday. "He said, 'Our nation found its soul and honor in these fields of Gettysburg. It must not lose that soul in dishonor on the fields of hate.' Today, we are engaged once again in the battle for the soul of the nation."

'Fulfilling that promise'

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Biden said he "worked and worked and worked" on the speech about the "soul of America and racial equality and what significant trouble we're in right now."

"Some people may think it's a little dramatic, but I think it's appropriate," Biden said. "We have to unite this nation and I've decided to do it from Gettysburg."

His speech was about "bringing people along," he said. 

"It's about finally fulfilling that promise Frederick Douglass has talked about — in (the) second inaugural of Lincoln — he said it is a 'sacred try.' We have to have the sacred try to get this right," Biden said before the event, paraphrasing the the abolitionist. "And we really can. I really think we can." 

Biden also referenced the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Doc Rivers, the basketball coach, choking back tears when he said, 'We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot. We've been hung. It's amazing why we keep loving this country when this country does not love us back,'" Biden said. "I think about that. I think about what it takes for a black person to love America. That is a deep love for this country that has for far too long never been recognized."

America needs leadership that will deescalate tensions, open lines of communication and "bring us together," Biden said. "As president, that's precisely what I will do."

Biden's speech also comes as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said white supremacist extremists remain the deadliest domestic terror threat to the country, according to an annual report released Tuesday

In the last two years, white supremacists have been responsible for more fatal attacks in the U.S. than any other domestic terrorists, according to the report. White supremacists have shown a "longstanding intent" to target minorities, religious groups, the LGBTQ+ community, politicians and anyone who promotes multi-culturalism, the report said.

"As Secretary, I am concerned about any form of violent extremism," said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. "However, I am particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years."

During a presidential debate a week ago, Biden asked Trump to condemn white supremacists, particularly the Proud Boys. 

'Bad things happen in Philadelphia': How Pa. landed in the presidential debate 6 times

"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," Trump said. "But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing."

Under mounting pressure, the president days later condemned the Proud Boys, KKK and other white supremacists during a FOX News interview. 

It was unclear Tuesday when Trump would return to the campaign trail as he continued to recover from his coronavirus infection. 

Trump signaled in a tweet Tuesday that he was looking forward to the next presidential debate, slated for Thursday, Oct. 15.

While Biden was campaigning in Gettysburg, Trump made a prediction in a tweet: 

"I will win Pennsylvania!"

Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.

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