Biden targets wealthy in Pennsylvania tour with a hometown visit

By Thomson Reuters Apr 16, 2024 | 4:04 AM

By Jarrett Renshaw

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden kicks off a multi-city tour of the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday with a stop in his hometown of Scranton where he will renew calls to increase taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations.

With 19 electoral votes, one of the highest counts among all 50 U.S. states, and voters who swing between backing Democrats and Republicans, Pennsylvania is a top prize in the 2024 presidential election that features a rematch between Biden and his Republican rival, former President Donald Trump.

Biden, who spent part of his childhood in Scranton before his family moved to Delaware, won Pennsylvania in 2020 by less than 1.5%, or roughly 80,000 votes. Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016. Polls show another close race.

Biden will head to Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Thursday as part of an effort to draw contrasts with Trump on tax and economic policies. Trump was in Eastern Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally that drew thousands of supporters.

“You got Joe Biden, a candidate who sees the world in the kitchen table where he grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Donald Trump, who sees the world from his country club down at Mar-a-Lago,” said Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communications director.

Biden is grappling with voter concerns about the U.S. economy despite job growth, healthy spending and better-than-expected GDP increases. Voters blame Biden for rising costs on an array of items from groceries to construction supplies, along with high interest rates.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll found that voters trust Trump more than Biden to better manage the economy and jobs by a 39% to 33% margin.

Biden is betting his economic populist message, which includes a new billionaire’s tax and closing corporate loopholes, will animate voters in a blue-collar region of Pennsylvania that Democrats dominated before Trump emerged. Scranton sits in Lackawanna County, which is whiter, poorer and less-educated, on average, than the rest of the state, the latest U.S. Census figures show.

Biden must stem the defections of white, non-college educated voters in Pennsylvania and other rust-belt battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin if he hopes to stay in the White House, campaign aides have said.

Former President Barack Obama won Lackawanna county by roughly 62% in 2008 and 2012, while Hillary Clinton eked out a victory with 49.8% of the vote. Biden won the county by 53%.

The state’s Republican and Democratic primary contests take place on April 23.

Biden faces a loosely organized effort by critics who say he has not done enough to stop the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where Israel’s air and ground campaign has led to widespread disease and famine in the Palestinian enclave.

Amber Viola, a 38-year-old Scranton resident who runs a popular local political podcast, said she was invited by the Biden campaign to attend the Scranton event but turned it down.

“I don’t feel comfortable posing for campaign photos when there are people dying,” Viola said.

Voters mounted opposition efforts in Democratic primaries in other battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina to register their protest. Biden has faced protests at many public events in recent months.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Jeff Mason and Richard Chang)