President Biden and former President Obama face off this weekend with former President Trump in Pennsylvania, underscoring the battleground state’s importance ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Biden and Obama will hold a rally for Lt. Governor John Fetterman (D) and State Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) in Philadelphia on Saturday, while Trump will hold a rally for GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and the State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), the party’s gubernatorial nominee, across the state in Latrobe.
The swings in the campaign come amid signs that the race for the Senate is tightening significantly. An Emerson College and The Hill poll released Thursday showed Oz leading Fetterman in a post-debate poll, painting a picture of growing momentum for Republicans.
But while Saturday’s events are pivotal for candidates on the ballot next week, the significance is also heightened for those who could face off again in two years’ time, as Pennsylvania has become ground zero in the Biden fight. and Trump.
“If you look at all the swing states…Pennsylvania is really the biggest,” former Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said in an interview. “It’s a good microcosm of the election. … I think Pennsylvania is the best test. It’s the biggest prize and it’s going to be purple for a while.
Biden is famous for securing the presidency on the Saturday after the 2020 election by winning all 20 Keystone State electoral votes, which Trump won four years prior. However, times have changed and so has Biden’s position in the Commonwealth. According to the Emerson College Polling-The Hill survey, only 39% of likely voters approve of the job he has done in office.
“At the end of the day, too much of Joe Biden,” said a national Republican strategist when asked about the visit. “No one needs Joe Biden anymore. Wrong message. Wrong messenger.
“I can’t imagine how that helps anyone in Pennsylvania if you’re a Democrat,” they added.
But Democrats argue that having Obama and Biden on the same stage before Election Day is very helpful, especially to galvanize the Democratic base in strongholds like Philadelphia.
“People are going to see the Obama-Biden duo again,” a Democratic operative told The Hill. “It’s a precious image.”
The timing is also important for Trump, who could launch a third presidential bid just days after the midterm elections close. To his supporters, Tuesday will provide insight into how voters view him by proxy.
“It’s very important. He’s going to see, ‘Do I still have it?’ and he’s going to see that all over the country with the people he’s supported,” said Rob Gleason, the former chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, an ally of Trump. “If there’s a Republican wave, there’s will take credit for it.”
The location of the apparitions is also not a surprise. Biden and Obama will campaign in Philadelphia, a longtime deep blue stronghold that helped give both individuals the White House. However, widespread crime in the city has presented problems for the party, with Oz and National Republicans messaging heavily on the issue over the past three months.
As for Trump, his stop in western Pennsylvania is aimed at boosting turnout from rural voters who are seen as crucial to Oz on Tuesday.
“Fetterman probably needs Biden voters, but Oz needs Trump voters more than Fetterman needs Biden voters,” said a Pennsylvania-based GOP operative.
“This one is important, but he doesn’t really own losses like a traditional politician does,” the agent said of the importance of the race to Trump. “But Oz is his. Oz is the candidate because of him. … If Oz can’t cross the finish line, Trump will be blamed.
Despite Biden’s low approval rating, Democrats are hailing his appearance in the City of Brotherly Love, particularly alongside Obama in an effort to boost African American turnout on Tuesday. Rendell noted that getting this bloc to go to the polls is a concern for his approach to Election Day.
However, they believe Trump’s appearance in the state can only be a net positive for the ruling party. While the ex-president played a key role in pushing Oz over the hump in May’s primary against David McCormick, his presence has been particularly limited since then as Oz has focused on winning over voters in suburban Philadelphia, which is ripe with moderates. .
“Any time the focus is on Trump, it benefits our side of the aisle,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), who is one of two Philadelphia-based congressmen. “I personally know Republicans who hope he stays banned from Twitter because they know the more visible Trump is, the better for Democrats.”
Even more than Trump, Democrats are trying to tie Republicans across the ticket to Mastriano, whom Republicans have consistently criticized for having one of the worst campaigns on the card of 2022. The Pennsylvania-based GOP operative predicted that Mastriano would lose to Shapiro by 7–12 points, creating problems for Oz and the downside congressional candidates.
“I think the Oz team and the ecosystem did a really good job of separating him from Mastriano,” the agent said, adding that any Shapiro lead of more than 10% “starts to get troubling.” for Oz.
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