Written by Mark Levy, Steve Poplis and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) – Swinging state of Pennsylvania is the scene of a clash between presidents Saturday as each party’s biggest star energizes voters just days before voting ends in high-stakes midterm elections across the country.
Former President Barack Obama opened today at a rally in Pittsburgh with Democratic Senate candidate Jon Fetterman, the Pennsylvania governor who presents his party’s best chance to overturn a Republican-controlled Senate seat on Tuesday. Obama and Fetterman will appear alongside President Joe Biden and gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro later in the day in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump will end his day courting voters in a working-class district in the state’s southwest corner with Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and state candidate Doug Mastriano.
The flurry of presidential interest in Pennsylvania underscores the risks in 2022 and beyond for a glamorous state to host the presidential battleground with pivotal elections for the US Senate, House of Representatives and governor on Tuesday. The Senate competition could well decide the Senate majority — and with it, Biden’s agenda and judicial appointments for the next two years. The governor’s race will determine the direction of state policy and control of state election infrastructure before the 2024 presidential election.
Opinion polls show a close contest between Trump’s favorite Senate candidate, Oz, and Biden’s pick, Fetterman, in the race to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Tome.
In the race for governor, Shapiro, the state’s Democratic attorney general, is leading in opinion polls over Mastriano, a state senator and retired Army colonel who some Republicans believe is too radical to win Biden’s general election by a narrow margin two years ago.
While Democrats are satisfied with the Pennsylvania governor’s race, they are entering the weekend on the defensive across the country as voters frustrated with Biden’s leadership amid rising inflation, crime fears and widespread pessimism about the country’s direction.
History suggests that the Democrats, as the ruling party, will suffer major losses on Tuesday.
Obama’s midday appearance in Pittsburgh marks his first campaign in Pennsylvania this year, although the former president was the Democratic Party’s number one swing in the last election day race. Obama campaigned in recent days through Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona before hitting Pennsylvania.
With Biden’s approval numbers waning, the incumbent’s presence has been less visible in battleground states, although Saturday marks his third appearance in three weeks in his home state of Pennsylvania as he works to support Fetterman’s expectations.
The White House has been concerned privately for weeks that concerns about Fetterman’s health could undermine his candidacy.
Fettermann is still recovering from a stroke he suffered in May. He mixed words and struggled to complete sentences in his solo debate against Oz last month, although medical experts say he is recovering well from his health scare.
Despite his challenges, Fetterman relentlessly attacked Oz for his opposition to abortion rights and criticized the former New Jersey resident as being too heavy-handed to say or do anything to get elected. Oprah Winfrey, who raised Oz on her TV show, endorsed Fetterman on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Oz worked to craft a moderate image in the general election and focused his attacks on Fetterman’s progressive positions on criminal justice and drug decriminalization. However, Oz has struggled to connect with some voters, including Republican voters who think he is too close to Trump, too liberal or unoriginal.
Meanwhile, Trump will hold a rally in La Trobe, Pennsylvania, in support of Oz and Mastriano on Saturday night.
Oz barely won the Republican nomination, even after earning Trump’s endorsement. The former Republican president is betting that the famous television doctor, who is a fan of former first lady Melania Trump, will help Republicans win over suburban women in the crucial swing state.
The event is part of a recent rally that will also take Trump to Florida and Ohio — both crucial presidential battlefields. He hopes that the emergence of a strong GOP this week will generate momentum for the 2024 round, which he expects to launch in the days or weeks after polling closes.
Trump has been increasingly clear about his plans.
At a rally Thursday evening in Iowa, home to the first contest on the presidential nomination calendar, Trump repeatedly signaled his ambitions for the White House for 2024.
After speaking about his first two presidential tours, he told the audience, “Now, for the sake of making our country successful, safe, and glorious, I’ll probably do it again, okay? Very, very, probably. Very, very, probably.”
“Get ready, that’s all I tell you. Very soon, he said.
The potential dynamics of the race are already starting to seep into public opinion.
On Sunday, Trump will lead a rally in Miami, Florida, in support of Senator Marco Rubio, a former rival. Not invited: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election and is widely considered Trump’s fiercest challenger if both men decide to run for president.
Trump’s crowd schedule underscores his undeniable popularity with the Republican base and its tycoons. His aides acknowledge that the best way to publicize Trump is through races in which candidates try to get off the ground.
Republicans in Westmoreland County, where Trump will speak on Saturday, are hopeful that the former president will do just that on Saturday.
“Trump’s bump is still a real phenomenon,” said Bill Pritz, who heads the Westmoreland County Republican Party. “I’m sure that’s what he hopes to achieve, to make sure everyone is aware of the importance of those races, to boost both men and really kick out the vote on Election Day.” “.
Peoples and Colvin reported from New York.
Learn more about the issues and factors influencing midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. Follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 election at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.
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