In closing stretch of 2022 campaign, Biden and Trump converge in Pennsylvania in possible 2024 preview


President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump campaigned on opposite sides of Pennsylvania on Saturday, offering a preview of their potential 2024 rematch as they made the final push for their parties’ Senate and gubernatorial candidates in the key 2022 battleground.

The commonwealth, which offers Democrats the best chance to pick up a seat that could help them retain control of the U.S. Senate, has shifted from supporting Trump in 2016 to supporting Biden in 2020. But anger over inflation, coupled with economic uncertainty among voters across the nation , has created an even more challenging climate for Democrats, who are facing historic difficulties this year as the party in the White House often faces heavy congressional losses in the first half of a new administration’s term.

Democrats — including Biden and former President Barack Obama, who joined him on the road in Philadelphia on Saturday — are wrapping up the campaign by arguing that Republicans have no intention of easing the burden of inflation and say they could threaten Social Security and health care. as basic tenants of democracy due to blind loyalty to Trump.

Biden’s approval rating is under water, making Pennsylvania one of the few places where the Scranton native has appeared with a Senate candidate in a closely contested race. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running against Trump’s handpicked nominee Mehmet Oz, is trying to win the Senate seat vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Democrats, who hold 50-50 control of the Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s deciding vote, are scrambling to defend seats in Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. Republicans need a net gain of just one seat to win the majority, so Democrats are hoping that a win in Pennsylvania could offset potential losses on their side in those other states.

After walking the stage with Obama, Biden edged out his former — and possibly future — rival by telling the raucous crowd that they could be heard all the way to Latrobe, where Trump appeared two hours later with Oz and the candidate for GOP Gov. Doug Mastrian, an election denialist, on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

“Your right to choose is on the ballot. Your right to vote is on the ballot. Social Security and Medicare are on the ballot,” Biden said at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University in North Philadelphia.

He noted that his goal in running for president was to “build the economy from the bottom up and from the middle out,” which he described as “a fundamental shift from Oz and the mega MAGA Republican flow economy.”

“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” the president added. “It’s a different breed of cat. I really mean it. Look, everyone talks about the rich getting richer. And the wealthy stay wealthy. The middle class becomes hardened. The poor are getting poorer because of their policies.”

Speaking behind Biden, Fetterman chided Oz for appearing with Trump on the rally stage — “a real exercise in moderation,” he quipped — as he sought to remind Pennsylvanians of how Trump fueled the conspiracy theories that fueled the rebellion Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

He added that “inflation has hurt working families in Pennsylvania, but you need a senator who really understands what that really means,” pointing to Oz’s wealth and claiming he was unfamiliar with the pain of higher prices.

Trump campaigned for Oz in Latrobe days after teasing a 2024 bid in Iowa, where he told the crowd he would “very, very, very likely” run for the White House again.

While Trump’s presence in western Pennsylvania could help Oz strengthen the GOP base, it could also complicate his eventual appeal to the moderates and independents the GOP Senate nominee needs to win — voters Trump alienated during his presidency. Speaking before Trump at the rally, Oz did not mention the former president — a telling move given how Trump-backed candidates often lavish praise on the former president at his events.

It was an indication of how Trump’s visit may do more for himself than Oz, as Trump tries to build anticipation for his plans. His aides are eyeing the third week of November for a possible announcement if Republicans do well in next week’s midterm elections, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

Much of Trump’s speech focused on his own accomplishments, grievances and debunked conspiracy theories about voter fraud in the 2020 election. He called Oz a “good man” who could help turn around “a country in decline.”

“This could be the vote that makes the difference between a state and a non-state,” Trump said of his push for Oz. “It could be 51, it could be 50,” he said of the balance of power in the Senate. If it’s “49 for the Republicans, this country — I don’t know if it’s going to live another two years.”

But Trump also spent part of the rally in Latrobe poring over the latest poll numbers he’s seen for his potential 2024 rematch with Biden in the states (and even many red states).

Not all Republicans are happy that the former president is on the road in the final stretch of the midterm elections. Former New York Gov. George Pataki warned Saturday on CNN’s “Newsroom” that the excessive attention Trump’s potential 2024 bid is bringing so close to Election Day has not helped GOP candidates running in blue states — including with New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin challenging Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in an unexpectedly close race.

“It’s classic Trump that it has to be about him. It’s not about him,” Pataki told CNN’s Jim Acosta. “It’s about the future of our states, the future of America, and I’m appalled that he’s doing everything he can to get the public.”

While Trump may be causing headaches for some GOP candidates, Obama — not Biden — has been the stronger voice for Democrats in these final days of the midterm elections.

On the campaign trail with Fetterman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, Obama hammered home his twin message that Republicans who reject elections like Mastriano could threaten democracy in 2024, accusing Republicans of not intending to help American families with their expenses.

On that front, he tried to draw a particular contrast between Oz and Fetterman, attacking the celebrity surgeon’s career on television. “If someone is willing to trade snake oil to make money, then they’re probably willing to sell snake oil to get elected,” Obama said in Pittsburgh. Later in Philadelphia, he described Fetterman as “a guy who has spent his whole life fighting for ordinary people.”

To galvanize younger people and other voters who aren’t as reliable in the midterms in Philadelphia — where Democrats need to do better to win Pennsylvania — Obama reflected on his midterm failures, telling the crowd that he wanted to “offer a history lesson” on based on his client’s losses in 2010 and 2014.

“Sometimes I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if enough people turned out in this election,” Obama said. “Imagine if we managed to fix our broken immigration system in 2011. Imagine if we were then able to pass meaningful gun safety legislation to prevent more deaths. Imagine if we managed to reduce our emissions even more than we have. It would take even longer to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. If we had kept the Senate in 2014, we would have had a very different Supreme Court ruling on our most basic rights. So midterms are no joke.”

Earlier in Pittsburgh, Obama warned that some Republicans are already talking about ousting Biden if they win the majority. “How will this help you pay the bills?” he asked.

While Obama was able to travel the country campaigning in competitive states like Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin, disillusionment with Biden continued to stymie the most vulnerable Democrats and limit his appearances.

And remarks he made Friday in California suggesting coal plants should be shut down across the state didn’t play well outside the blue state. He quickly drew rebuke from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a moderate in the Senate, while Republicans argued that his remarks would not help Democrats in coal-producing states like Pennsylvania.

Manchin said in a statement that Biden’s comments “are not only outrageous and disconnected from reality, but they ignore the severe economic pain Americans are feeling due to rising energy costs.”

Trump also tried to use this moment at his rally in Pennsylvania. “Biden has continued his war on coal — your coal. Yesterday he declared that we are going to shut down coal plants across America. Can you believe this? In favor of highly unreliable wind and solar that cost us a fortune. The most expensive energy we could have — an outrageous slap in the face to Pennsylvania coal country.”

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Saturday that Biden’s words were “twisted” to “convey a meaning that was not intended; she regrets that anyone who heard those remarks was offended.”


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