PHILADELPHIA (AP) — If a president’s most precious commodity is time, there is no place more politically valuable to the White House than Pennsylvania this interim year.
An energetic President Joe Biden returned to Keystone State on Friday, his 15th visit since he took office, this time to attend a fundraising drive with Vice President Kamala Harris and other leaders to support Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman, governor’s nominee. Josh Shapiro and other Pennsylvania Democrats.
The president immediately set the stakes, warning that the November 8 midterm elections “wasn’t a referendum, it’s a choice, a choice between two completely different visions of America.”
“Democracy is on the agenda this year,” he continued. “Together with your right to choose, and your right to privacy. And the amazing thing is that they say it out loud.”
The Pennsylvania seat has been the most likely stepping stone for Democrats in the evenly divided Senate for months, but as the prospects for Democratic incumbents elsewhere darken, a win here becomes an even more urgent insurance policy for the party to cling to the Senate. check.
“It is no exaggeration to suggest that all eyes are on Pennsylvania,” Biden said.
The White House has been paying close attention to Keystone State — Biden’s hometown — in the final weeks before the election, and officials are gearing up for another visit next week. Harris told the crowd the party only needs two more seats to pass key Democratic agendas on abortion rights and voting rights.
“Two more chairs,” Harris said, raising two fingers. “Two more seats. One of them, here.”
Friday’s event came three days after Fetterman — recovering from a stroke earlier this year that he says nearly killed him — had a shaky display in his lone debate against Republican Mehmet Oz. Speaking smoothly to the crowd in his signature hoodie and jeans, he said he wanted to provide all Americans with the same quality of health care that saved his life.
“So I may not say everything perfect sometimes, but I will always do the right thing if you send me to Washington, DC,” he said to a standing ovation.
The dinner at the Pennsylvania Convention Center is the largest state party fundraiser of the year, and party officials said the $1 million raised for the dinner is the highest ever. Attendees included US Senator Bob Casey and US Representative Matt Cartwright, for whom Biden led a virtual fundraiser earlier this week.
In his comments, Biden directed his attacks on congressional Republicans, delving into GOP plans to increase the cost of prescription drugs, lower Medicare and Social Security, and pass a nationwide abortion ban. If Republicans win, they will abolish the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, energy tax credits and the minimum corporate tax of 15%, he warned.
“That is their plan, among other things. It’s reckless, it’s irresponsible, it will make inflation much worse. It will seriously harm middle-class Americans,” the president said.
In the Senate race, polls show a close race between Fetterman and Oz. The Democrat’s actions shocked some viewers and raised concern among party leaders. A day later, he delivered a brisk 13-minute speech in Pittsburgh as his campaign tried to downplay Tuesday’s performance, saying that Fetterman was always bad at debates and that the closed captioning system he used as a resource was faulty.
Ravi Balu, a dentist who is party vice president in Westmoreland County, western Pennsylvania, heard from several friends who were concerned or surprised by Fetterman’s performance. He said he told them that regardless of Fetterman’s ongoing problems from the stroke, he will recover and will always be more “confidential” to ordinary people than Oz.
“It’s something he took a big risk with,” Balu said. “But I also think he got a lot of sympathy from people.”
The White House reiterated this week that Biden — through his personal conversations with the lieutenant governor — believes Fetterman is physically capable of serving in public office, citing analysis by independent medical experts who said his hesitant speech is not a problem with his cognitive functions.
“John IS Pennsylvania,” Biden said Friday, adding: “John leaves no one behind.”
Watching parts of Tuesday night’s debate, Biden “thought Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman did a great job,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in an email Friday.
In the meantime, Fetterman’s campaign and national Democratic groups are turning their attention elsewhere, pumping money into TV ads with a debate clip of Oz saying, “I want women, doctors, local political leaders” to decide the fate of the nation. a woman’s right to an abortion.
The statement — which quickly spread on social media immediately after the debate — was intended to frame Oz’s opposition to a federal ban that would reduce access to abortion in Pennsylvania, even though he opposes abortion. But the Democrats say it’s proof that Oz wants politicians in doctors’ offices and examination rooms with women.
Biden brought up the moment on Friday and his astonished look at the comments was greeted with a huge laugh from the crowd.
“You heard it right: ‘local political leaders’,” he said. “Look, the bottom line is that if Republicans take control of Congress and pass a national abortion ban, I will veto it. But if we elect two more Democrats to the Senate and retain control of the House, we’re going to codify Roe v. Wade in January, so it’s the law of the land.”
Biden’s approval ratings are falling in Pennsylvania at the same rate as the rest of the nation, raising the question of whether his presence is good for Democrats in a year when Republicans have political wind at their backs.
But Biden won heavily in 2020 in Philadelphia and his four suburban “collar” counties — including winning over Republican moderates — and that propelled him to victory over former President Donald Trump.
The Democratic president is likely to remain popular there.
Democratic political strategist Mark Nevins said boosting voters in Philadelphia and its populous suburbs — home to one in three registered voters in Pennsylvania — is “a cornerstone to a Democratic victory in Pennsylvania in the Senate race and in the governor’s race.” , and frankly in some of these suburban races as well.”
Even if there is some debate about whether Biden can help with the campaign trail, “the one constant is his ability to raise money. Chairmen can help with that. There’s no question that they will take the help of a president to raise money in these very costly races,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor and pollster at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
Biden has also treated Pennsylvania as a sort of home base.
It’s where he spent some of his childhood, it’s where he campaigned countless times for himself and other Democrats, and it’s where the Democrats called him “the third senator from Pennsylvania” during his 36 years in the Senate from next door in Delaware.