Trump Suggests Biden May Use Supplements to Get ‘Jacked Up’ for Debate

In his last scheduled rally before he takes the stage for a presidential debate, former President Donald J. Trump on Saturday mocked President Biden over his preparations, suggesting his opponent might be using medical supplements.

“Right now, crooked Joe has gone to a log cabin to ‘study,’” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Philadelphia, pantomiming quotation marks with his hands. “He’s sleeping now, because they want to get him good and strong. So a little before debate time, he gets a shot in the ass.”

Mr. Trump and his campaign for months challenged Mr. Biden to debate, taunting him with an empty lectern and suggesting he was too afraid to take the stage. But since the candidates agreed in May to two debates, one on June 27 and another on Sept. 10, Mr. Trump has at recent rallies sought to reframe the low expectations that he has set.

Mr. Trump has during rallies and speeches consistently attacked Mr. Biden’s mental capacities, contending that the president cannot put “two sentences together.”

But he did not use that line at Saturday’s rally before thousands of people at the Liacouras Center in North Philadelphia. Instead, he seemed to be preparing his supporters for the possibility that Mr. Biden might prove a formidable opponent by accusing him of using a chemical boost.

“I say he’ll come out all jacked up, right?” Mr. Trump said, referring to Mr. Biden. Moments later, Mr. Trump, who has previously demanded Mr. Biden take a drug test before their debate, seemed to accuse Mr. Biden of using illegal drugs.

“I’m sure he’ll be prepared,” Mr. Trump said. He paused, then, referring to an incident in which a bag of cocaine was found in the guest lobby of the West Wing last year, added with a smirk: “Whatever happened to all that cocaine that was missing a month ago from the White House?” (The Secret Service closed its investigation into that episode after security video failed to provide any leads and no fingerprints were found on the bag.)

Though Mr. Trump built anticipation for the debate with his insistence for months that he would be willing to challenge Mr. Biden “anytime, anywhere, any place,” on Saturday, the former president criticized debate rules his campaign had agreed to, including the network hosting the event and the lack of a live audience.

“It’s like death,” Mr. Trump said. “This could be the most boring — or it could be the most exciting. Who knows?”

While the Biden operation has blocked off much of this week for structured debate preparations, Mr. Trump has generally preferred looser conversations to more formal coaching.

At a stop before the rally at a cheesesteak restaurant in South Philadelphia — a rite of passage for political candidates — Mr. Trump suggested that Saturday’s event was the only preparation he needed and said that his strategy for the debate was “to make America great again.”

During the rally, he consulted the crowd for strategy advice, asking whether he should be “tough and nasty” or “be nice and calm and let him speak.” The audience booed overwhelmingly at the second option, eliciting chuckles from Mr. Trump.

Saturday’s event was Mr. Trump’s first rally in Philadelphia, the most populous city in a battleground state that was key to his 2016 victory and just as instrumental in his 2020 loss. The Liacouras Center, on the Temple University campus, is in the center of an area where Mr. Trump had very little support in his previous two presidential campaigns.

Ahead of the rally, several dozen protesters wearing shirts from the Laborers’ International Union of North America demonstrated across the street from the arena and chanted “lock him up,” a twist on an old Trump campaign slogan meant to reflect his recent conviction in Manhattan.

But as the Trump campaign seeks to draw a contrast with Mr. Biden, it has been scheduling events in deeply Democratic urban areas, including the Bronx and Detroit, in an attempt to project its efforts to reach Black and Hispanic voters across the country.

Emanuel Morales, who lives in Philadelphia and is from Puerto Rico, said that he voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and for Mr. Biden in 2020, but that his 2024 vote is up for grabs. He came to the rally to hear from Mr. Trump in person, rather than through media coverage.

“I just want to listen to him talk,” said Mr. Morales, 54. “I just might flip a coin for my vote.”

Shabazz Boone, 67, of North Philadelphia, acknowledged that while he had supported Mr. Trump since 2016, everyone from his neighborhood knew him as the local Trump supporter in an area that always votes for Democrats.

“Living in this city, you rarely see a Trump supporter in my neighborhood,” said Mr. Boone, who is Black. “I’m the only one.”

Mr. Boone — who wore a pair of golden high-top sneakers that Mr. Trump unveiled on his last visit to Philadelphia, at a sneaker convention in February — said that Mr. Trump’s visit to his neighborhood was encouraging.

Inside the arena, the crowd was overwhelmingly white and did not reflect the demographics of the predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood surrounding it.

During his speech, Mr. Trump largely stuck to the same themes that have animated his campaign. He said Mr. Biden had done little to curb inflation and derided his energy and environmental policies, which Mr. Trump said are raising the cost of goods. Mr. Trump also said Mr. Biden had done little at the border.

He again claimed without offering evidence that Black and Hispanic Americans had been “the most hurt” by the influx of undocumented immigrants.

The point was somewhat undercut after he finished the thought, when a Black man with a hat stood up to cheer him on. “Have they taken your job yet, sir?” Mr. Trump called to the man.

“No, they have not,” the man shouted back.

Mr. Trump often vilifies migrants as a tough, invading force in his speeches. During Saturday’s rally, he again made an unsubstantiated claim that other countries are deliberately sending criminals across the border. And he for the second time that day he suggested that migrants coming to the U.S. should have their own separate fighting league.

Philadelphia and its suburbs are being targeted heavily by both the Biden and the Trump campaigns. Mr. Biden campaigns frequently in the city, and its metropolitan area was critical to helping him win Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes in 2020.

But Black voters were an important part of Mr. Biden’s coalition in the state, and as polls have shown their support for Democrats softening, Mr. Trump has been eager to win them over.

Democrats are fighting back. On Saturday, the Democratic National Committee paid for both a billboard and a mobile billboard attacking Mr. Trump as a “disaster” for Black Americans.

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