by Daryl Bell
Philadelphia Tribune Staff Writer
Pennsylvania is in play. The Keystone State could make the difference in the 2020 presidential election.
President Donald Trump, who barely won Pennsylvania with about 44,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, has personally campaigned in the state since accepting the Republican nomination on Aug. 27.
Vice President Mike Pence has also stumped for votes in Pennsylvania.
Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden has addressed voters in his home state since accepting his party’s nomination on Aug. 20.
Both Trump and Biden spoke Friday in Shanksville, about 75 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, in honoring the 44 victims of United Airlines Flight 93 who were among the casualties of the 9/11 terrorism attacks in 2001.
Biden, who has made Philadelphia the site of his national campaign headquarters, announced on Aug. 11 that U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris would be his running mate in the 2020 presidential election. Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, is the first Black American to run for vice president on a major party ticket.
The senator from California has yet to personally campaign in Pennsylvania, which is puzzling since it was assumed she would help the ticket galvanize the Black vote in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state’s two most populous cities.
“I’ve got to think there is a strategic reason why she hasn’t appeared in Pennsylvania,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political analysis newsletter established in 2002 at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
“We have to keep in mind that campaign stops are strategic,” Coleman said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe, when the election gets closer, and the Biden campaign needs to [inspire people to] get out the vote, Biden and Harris may do joint appearances.”
The Biden-Harris campaign says it’s not taking Pennsylvania for granted.
Taking back the White House runs straight through Pennsylvania, and with just over 50 days remaining until Election Day, we are not taking a single vote for granted,” said Ramzey Smith, African American media director for the Biden-Harris campaign.
Robin Kolodny, chair of Temple University’s Political Science Department, said there may be another reason for Harris’ no-show.
“She does have a job,” Kolodny said. “She’s a United States senator and there is plenty of legislation for her to consider. While it’s important for her to be seen, and she was in Wisconsin [during Labor Day], you’ve got to remember that she has a job to do as a senator.”
Earlier this week, Harris was in Milwaukee. Her trip came a week after Biden visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed in a police shooting on Aug. 23, and talked about racial justice and protests in the city.
Wisconsin is a critical swing state that the Democrats hope to win after Clinton lost to Trump by about 23,000 votes.
Harris has been making the rounds campaigning for supporters in states like Minnesota, California and Connecticut by way of virtual meetings.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered campaigning for Democrats, who, unlike Republicans, are largely avoiding in-person gatherings and are organizing digitally.
The role of the vice presidential nominee is to boost the presidential candidate’s agenda, as Harris has done, and reach out to constituencies that may not be as natural for the nominee.
For example, Pence was chosen in part to help boost Trump’s support among evangelical voters. Harris, meanwhile, counters the 77-year-old Biden as a 55-year-old Black woman.
Harris and Pence are scheduled to debate on Oct. 7 at the University of Utah.