By Charles Thompson | pennlive.com (TNS)
When former President Donald Trump jets into Harrisburg Friday, it kind of feels like the race for Pennsylvania‚Äôs 19 electoral college votes ‚Äď the 5th-biggest batch in the nation ‚Äď is on.
Technically, Trump‚Äôs visit to the Great American Outdoor Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex is not a campaign appearance; he‚Äôs being brought in Friday as a closing-weekend headliner to the show sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
But Trump‚Äôs day job these days is running for president so, if the shoe fits‚Ä¶
President Joe Biden, the incumbent Delawarean and presumptive Democratic Party nominee of course, has visited Philadelphia more than any other metro area as president, and made his first 2024 campaign appearance near Valley Forge last month.
So with Trump back in the state for the first time since 2022, the swing-state battle is joined.
As always, both campaigns very much want to put Pennsylvania‚Äôs in their column as they build out a map to 270 Electoral College votes.
‚ÄúThe general consensus is you can‚Äôt win without Pennsylvania,‚ÄĚ said a former staffer Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania staffer who has stayed active in state politics but asked not to be identified for this story because of his current position.
National Republicans feel that way, he said, even though Democrats have been on a bit of a roll in the major statewide elections since 2016.
Remember, when Trump won Pennsylvania that year, he won the national election. Same thing for Biden in 2020.
But, the Trump forces feel that if the Democratic Party hadn‚Äôt successfully got Green Party nominee Jill Stein tossed from the Pennsylvania presidential ballot four years ago, there‚Äôs no telling how that 2020 race, which Biden won by less than 81,000 votes, or a margin of 1.17%, would have turned out.
The current average of Pennsylvania polls from the last three months as tabulated by shows Biden and Trump in a statistical dead heat,
So both parties are as engaged as ever with Pennsylvania for 2024.
While Friday‚Äôs is not a direct campaign event, the Great American Outdoor Show audience is by definition a pro-Second Amendment crowd that is likely to skew more toward Trump than Biden.
Trump is expected to sing that chorus Friday, even though there were times during his term in office when he made short-lived In the end, the former president retreated to a more standard NRA position.
That‚Äôs also where he‚Äôs expected to be Friday.
‚ÄúPresident Trump looks forward to returning to Pennsylvania and speaking at the NRA Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg to discuss the importance of protecting the Second Amendment rights of all Americans,‚ÄĚ a Trump campaign official said Thursday night.
He will also, the official said, ‚Äúfocus on Joe Biden‚Äôs support for unconstitutional gun grabs.‚ÄĚ
in the U.S. by repeatedly calling on Congress to take additional action, including: Reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; and expanding background check requirements for gun purchases.
His efforts have not found momentum to date, largely because of resistance from Congressional Republicans.
it will be interesting to see where else Trump‚Äôs remarks go Friday. Several Outdoor Show attendees interviewed by PennLive earlier Thursday made plain that gun rights are not the only issue that they‚Äôre casting their votes on this year.
In an unscientific sample, their support for Trump ranged from tepid to enthusiastic.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not a not-supporter‚ÄĚ one man from Bridgeport, Conn. told PennLive, before adding ‚ÄúI would rather see other candidates for the office because of the tensions he causes.‚ÄĚ
But Trump was clearly the peoples‚Äô choice.
Several show attendees said they‚Äôre picking Trump because of what they consider a trainwreck of an economy under Biden‚Äôs watch, a need for tighter border security and a desire to see the return of the ‚ÄúAmerica First‚ÄĚ agenda to the White House.
‚ÄúWhy are we sending all this money over there?‚ÄĚ Dillsburg resident Doug Wonders asked at one point, in a reference to the government‚Äôs security packages for Ukraine and Israel. ‚ÄúLet‚Äôs worry about ourselves. Not everybody else.‚ÄĚ
And no, they said, they do not have qualms about Trump‚Äôs post-2020 election activities.
Wonders said while he doesn‚Äôt condone the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, he believes it‚Äôs unfair to pin that on Trump. Wonders said he feels most of the criminal charges against Trump have been filed solely to weaken him politically.
PennLive reached out to the Biden campaign for comment on Trump‚Äôs appearance Thursday and learned the Democrats will not be standing silent.
Among other things, the campaign noted the Democratic National Committee will unveil a billboard in Harrisburg Friday seeking to underscore what it considers Trump‚Äôs weak response to some acts of gun violence in the past.
Featuring the tagline ‚ÄúGet over it,‚ÄĚ the billboard is said to reference the former president‚Äôs reaction to a school shooting in Perry, Iowa earlier this year.
At a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa on Jan. 5, Trump condemned the violence and offered support and sympathy to the victims and their families. But then, rather than speak to potential policy solutions, he said ‚Äúwe have to get over it, we have to move forward.‚ÄĚ
The Biden campaign said it also plans to work with former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot at an event in 2011, and Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization, to fact-check the former president and respond to his speech.
‚ÄúDonald Trump‚Äôs solution to gun violence is to ‚Äėget over it‚Äô and flood the streets with more guns ‚Äď just like the gun lobby has ordered him to do.‚ÄĚ Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement.
‚ÄúIf Trump is allowed back in the Oval Office, he‚Äôs promised a new plan to arm teachers and allow universal concealed carry permits across the country. More guns, not less,‚ÄĚ Tyler‚Äôs statement continued. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs Donald Trump‚Äôs plan to make us safe.‚ÄĚ
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