Biden returns to battleground Pennsylvania for campaign events in Philadelphia and Harrisburg

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PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden will be in Pennsylvania today to speak at a church in Philadelphia and a campaign office near Harrisburg, with the state’s top Democrats — including Gov. Josh Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman and Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker — slated to appear with him along the way. 

Biden will speak at the Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, a traditionally Black church in Northwest Philadelphia before heading to a campaign event in Harrisburg. First lady Jill Biden will accompany the president on Sunday. Biden was originally scheduled to address the National Education Association conference in Philadelphia on Sunday, but canceled that appearance after a group of NEA workers went on strike Friday. The campaign said Biden refused to cross a picket line.

Sunday will be the first time Biden has returned to the battleground state since his poor performance in the June 27 presidential debate, which he’s since admitted was a “bad episode.” His insistence that he will remain in the race has not prevented national media and political pundits from weighing in and speculating -– sometimes flat-out stating — that Biden should step down as the presumptive Democratic nominee in favor of a younger candidate. 

But Biden has largely dismissed those calls to drop out. “Let me say this as clearly as I can: I’m staying in the race,” he told a capacity crowd of more than 1,000 supporters in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday. Those calling for him to leave the race are ignoring the will of the voters who voted for him in primaries across the country, he added. “I’m not going to let one 90-minute debate wipe out three and a half years of work.”

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Most of Pennsylvania’s top elected Democrats have thus far expressed support for the president remaining in the race. 

Shapiro — whose name comes up frequently in speculation about who would replace Biden on the ticket — went on cable news shows the morning after the debate and said Democrats should “stop worrying and start working,” while acknowledging Biden’s debate performance was bad. Fetterman, who had a rough debate himself in 2022 as he recovered from a stroke, said Friday on MSNBC that Democrats calling for Biden to drop out were betraying the president. “I am not the sum total of a bad debate and certainly the president isn’t either,” he said.

But U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-12th District) said on a satellite radio show July 3 that Biden would need to show “that he’s up for the task,” if he decided to stay in the race, adding that Vice President Kamala Harris should be the Democratic nominee if Biden steps aside.

The campaign said the weekend swing through the “blue wall states” — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — is part of a July outreach blitz that includes a $50 million media campaign. It also will include an “aggressive” travel schedule which will see the Bidens, Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff travel to every battleground state. Its organizing program aims to knock on more than 3 million doors throughout July and August, the campaign said. 

Biden’s opponent, former President Donald Trump, will visit Pennsylvania next weekend, with a rally in Butler County, north of Pittsburgh, days before the opening of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. Neither candidate has spent much time in the western half of the state so far this campaign cycle. 

Trump to campaign in Butler ahead of Republican National Convention

With a few exceptions, Trump’s debate performance has not drawn the same level of scrutiny as Biden’s, but a fact-check by CNN found the presumptive GOP nominee made more than 30 false claims during the debate, many of which had already been debunked.

Sunday will be Biden’s first trip to the Harrisburg area since the 2020 campaign, when he delivered a Labor Day speech at the state AFL-CIO headquarters and said he would be “the strongest labor president we’ve ever had.” He last visited Pennsylvania in May, when he and Harris launched the campaign’s Black Voters for Biden-Harris initiative in Philadelphia. 

Trump campaigned in Philadelphia in June, speaking on Temple University’s campus, where he appeared on stage for the first time in 2024 with GOP U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick. And Trump last visited Harrisburg in February, speaking at  a National Rifle Association event where he promised the audience “no one will lay a finger on your firearms.”

Biden beat Trump in Pennsylvania in 2020 by just over 80,000 votes.

This is a developing story that will be updated

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