All come to Pennsylvania.
As the midterms draw closer and the open US Senate and Commonwealth gubernatorial elections remain hotly contested, national Republicans and Democrats alike view Pennsylvania as one of the country’s key battlegrounds.
They consider northeastern Pennsylvania particularly important.
President Joe Biden made his second of three scheduled trips to Pennsylvania on Thursday, delivering a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He was in Wilkes-Barre earlier this week and plans to celebrate Labor Day in Pittsburgh this weekend.
Former President Donald Trump, who is reportedly planning to run again for the top office in 2024, will also be in Pennsylvania this weekend for a joint rally touting Republican nominees for governor and the US Senate. It will also be in Wilkes-Barre.
In the Senate race, Lt. gov. John Fetterman for his support of organized labor and legal marijuana, and hammered his opponent, television doctor Mehmet Oz, for only recently moving to Pennsylvania. Oz’s campaign has shown that Fetterman, who recently suffered a stroke, is unfit to be in the Senate and is overly progressive.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro is running for governor because of his long political career and his support for keeping abortion accessible, as well as his opponent’s commitment to debunking theories of voter fraud. That opponent, Senator Doug Mastriano, is running as a Crusade outsider and is focused on culture war issues, such as whether trans women should play sports.
In the heavily divided Commonwealth, elections are often won on the margins. Results are determined by one party generating higher turnout or another winning slightly more voters in a key area.
Democratic adviser Mark Nevins noted that while it makes sense for Biden to visit Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, places like Wilkes-Barre or Biden’s hometown of Scranton could make the biggest difference.
“There’s probably 45% for almost every candidate from both parties, and so they’re really only fighting over 10% of voters who are undecided or willing to change their minds,” Nevins said. “That’s why I think you see President Biden and Trump in northeastern Pennsylvania, up in Scranton, up in Wilkes-Barre, because that’s an area where voters have shown a propensity to switch between the two parties.”
FILE – Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on May 6, 2022.
GOP adviser Christopher Nicholas noted that this political dynamic is relatively new in Northeast Pennsylvania — part of a conservative shift in formerly industrial, Democratic areas while the suburbs have turned bluer. About a decade ago, the Philly suburbs were crucial in statewide elections. Well, “for various reasons, all roads lead to NEPA.”
Chris Borick, pollster and political scientist at Muhlenburg College, added that of the many factors that determine who wins elections, historical voting patterns cannot be ignored. For example, a president’s party often performs poorly in the midterms after his election. And Pennsylvania has not consecutively elected governors from the same party since the 1960s.
“That’s certainly an advantage for Republicans,” he said. “We like to switch control.”
But he added that doesn’t mean politics and candidates don’t matter.
The results of these races could determine who controls the Senate, thereby shaping federal policy on things like climate change and social program funding broadly, and within Pennsylvania they could have huge implications for abortion accessibility and school funding .
It’s often sensitive issues like these, rather than geographic tricks, that can make a real difference. Campaigns like to look for elusive swing voters, Borick said, but it’s just as important to ensure voters who already have a strong preference come out.
“Republicans in this cycle are more enthusiastic about the race than Democrats by a number of metrics,” he said. “It often happens in midterm elections when your party is out of power. But since the Dobbs decision this summer [allowing states to outlaw abortion]democratic energy appears to have increased among voters and closed the gap.”
Those visits by Trump and Biden, he said, are clearly designed to further energize their bases.
Read more from our partners, WHYY.