Why Joe Biden and Donald Trump are both heading to 'pivotal' Pennsylvania this Labor Day Weekend
This Labor Day Weekend 2022, the United States’ two most recent presidents — President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump — are heading to Pennsylvania. Biden will be in Pittsburgh for a Labor Day parade, while Trump will be in Wilkes-Barre campaigning for two GOP candidates: far-right gubernatorial nominee, conspiracy theorist and Christian nationalist Doug Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is competing with Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the U.S. Senate seat presently held by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Biden’s visit to Pittsburgh comes only a few days after his Thursday, September 1 speech from Independence Mall in Philadelphia, where the president forcefully condemned the extremism of “MAGA Republicans.” During his speech, Biden was careful to emphasize that he wasn’t attacking conservatives in general or Republicans in general. Biden, in fact, has a long history of boasting about all the years he spent making bipartisan deals with the late conservative Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona when they were serving in the U.S. Senate. But Biden made it clear, during his forceful speech, that he believes much of the GOP has taken a dangerously authoritarian turn with Trump’s MAGA movement.
Philadelphia-based journalist Holly Otterbein, in an article published by Politico on September 2, stresses that it is no coincidence that Biden and Trump are both visiting Pennsylvania on Labor Day Weekend — as it shows how much of a make-or-break swing state Pennsylvania is.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told Politico, “Both of them appearing so soon around Labor Day not only says Pennsylvania is a battleground in 2022, but it’s a battleground in 2024. Both of them want to run in an environment where their candidates have won in 2022.”
Mastriano and Oz have both been trailing their Democratic rivals in polls, and Democrats want to keep it that way — which is why they are investing considerable resources in Fetterman and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee. If Fetterman wins, Democrats will be flipping a U.S. Senate seat that for decades, has mostly been in Republican hands. Before Toomey entered the Senate, that seat was held, for many years, by the late Sen. Arlen Specter (who became a Democrat during the final months of his life but spent most of his years in the Senate as a Republican).
“The fact that (Trump) has zeroed in on the swing state for the politically symbolic Labor Day Weekend, the unofficial kickoff of the midterms, demonstrates how pivotal Pennsylvania is to his success this year — and, more likely than not, a future presidential campaign,” Otterbein reports. “Trump’s visit to the state also signals that he has prioritized coming to the aid of Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial hopeful Doug Mastriano, who have lagged behind their Democratic opponents in polling and fundraising. But President Joe Biden is campaigning in Pennsylvania during the long weekend, too — an acknowledgment that the races here are far from over.”
A GOP source described by Otterbein as a “former Trump official” believes that how well Trump’s candidates perform in the 2022 midterms could determine how much support he enjoys in 2024’s Republican presidential primary.
The source, presumably interviewed on condition of anonymity, told Politico, “His general-election win record is going to be incredibly important toward his 2024 prospects. (If) it’s perceived that he put his own interests over the party and good candidates who could have won, and the candidates he endorsed lose, that creates an opportunity for his opponents in early primary states to argue that the party suffered because of his selfish decisions.”
Some recent polls indicate that Pennsylvania’s Senate and gubernatorial races are tightening. A recent Franklin & Marshall poll found Oz trailing Fetterman by 13 percent, but other polls released in late August found Fetterman ahead by only 4 percent (Emerson College) or 5 percent (Susquehanna). Similarly, Shapiro was ahead of Mastriano by 11 percent in a late August Franklin & Marshall poll but ahead of him by only 3 percent in a late August Emerson College poll.
Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told Politico, “You’ve got the president of the United States and Donald Trump spending a lot of time in Pennsylvania. It’s not because people think Mastriano doesn’t have a chance.”
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