By picking Pennsylvania for his first campaign speech of the presidential race, Joe Biden is signaling he hopes to own what may be the 2020 election’s toughest battleground.
Planting a flag in Pennsylvania makes sense for the longtime former senator from Delaware: He was born in Pennsylvania, has numerous ties to it and is using his deep inroads with influential state party figures to his advantage in the primary.
For Democrats, it’s a late primary state that may have little value in the nomination. But Donald Trump’s campaign is already mapping out a strategy to win Pennsylvania a second time, and the Republican won’t easily cede a state that forms the core of his likeliest path back to 270 electoral votes.
“It is early in the game, but I just think this imperative in 2020 is such that we have to start early,” said Pennsylvania’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who is endorsing the former vice president. Pennsylvania is “so big and it’s so consequential that it’s going to take time to make the case here.”
Biden’s planned speech to an organized labor crowd Monday in Pittsburgh comes days after he announced his candidacy and promptly went to a fundraiser in Philadelphia organized by the area’s prominent Democrats. In Pittsburgh, he’ll receive the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters and speak about rebuilding the middle class.
No other primary candidate is from Pennsylvania, and it will be the last of the delegate-rich states to vote, except perhaps for New Jersey. It’s received limited attention from Biden’s rivals.
Among those who have come, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders each held a well-attended rally in recent weeks, and Sanders made the case for why he can beat Trump in Pennsylvania.