Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to marketing campaign in Erie Saturday

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Matthew Rink
 
| Erie Times-News

When Joe Biden arrives in Erie Saturday he’ll do something that the Democratic Party’s 2016 nominee did not: He’ll have visited every media market in the battleground state.

Biden left his home in Wilmington, Delaware, shortly after 2 p.m. en route to the airport. He is expected to speak in Erie at 4:45 p.m. 

The news of the Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president’s visit was announced in a travel advisory Friday. 

Biden “will meet with members of organized labor, business owners and entrepreneurs, and other members of our community,” according to the Erie County Democratic Party.

He is expected to address the economy.

However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Biden will not hold any public events.

“Many of you have already emailed or asked on social media how you can participate and where you might hear Vice President Biden speak on Saturday,” said Jim Wertz, chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party, in an email to local Democrats. “Unfortunately, because of COVID precautions and local guidance on group gatherings, there will be no public events with the Biden Campaign. We appreciate your understanding, and we know that some of you will be disappointed not to be in attendance. But rest assured, that the work you’ve done and will continue to do to election Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the weeks to come will not go unrecognized by Vice President Biden and the Biden Campaign.”

The Biden campaign has not yet publicly released details about where Biden will speak. 

“We’re very excited to have Vice President Biden come to Erie,” Wertz said Friday in an interview with the Erie Times-News. “We knew that we were on their radar. They know how important Erie is, the world knows how important Erie is to the outcome of the election at this point. Just having the vice president around will provide an extra boost of enthusiasm to the many volunteers and coalitions that have been working hard to get him elected.”

Biden’s visit to Erie will come two years to the day after his rival, President Donald J. Trump, spoke here ahead of the 2018 midterms.

“I had a conversation with Joe in Scranton about the importance of Erie and stressed the importance of candidate visibility here,” said state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, of Millcreek Township, D-3rd Dist. “I told him that no presidential nominee has won Pennsylvania without spending some time in Erie and that Erie County is, without question, a bellwether county. 

“Whoever wins Erie wins Pennsylvania,” Bizzarro continued. “Joe knows how important Erie County is. The Biden/Harris campaign knows that the pathway to victory goes through Erie County. They have shown Erie a lot of love and have been very responsive to our requests and needs. Saturday’s visit shows us that they are true to their word and further solidifies their commitment to the voters of Erie County.”

It will be the Biden campaign’s first visit to Erie. Biden’s wife, former second lady Jill Biden, held a virtual campaign event last month to discuss community college education. The virtual meeting included Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, Democrat Kristy Gnibus, who is running for Congress in the 16th District, and Erie lawyer Ron DiNicola, the chairman of the new Erie County Community College board of trustees. 

Wertz expects Biden to focus on infrastructure, the economy and America’s workforce while in Erie.

“The emphasis of the campaign has been on infrastructure and the economy, and those two elements are particularly important here in Erie County,” Wertz said. “Thinking about the future of this region, as well as the future of our industrial sectors and advanced manufacturing going forward, I think we can expect to hear a lot about his plan to build back better and how America’s workforce plays a key role in that.

“It’s more than just the people who are monitoring Wall Street,” Wertz continued. “It’s the people who are on the ground, on the shop floors, making things happen every day. And I think you’re going to hear a much better recognition of those people and those efforts from Vice President Biden than we’ve heard from the other campaign.”

Biden, who was born in Scranton and lived there until he was 10, has led in several recent polls of the battleground state, which is viewed as critical for both Biden and President Donald Trump. A RealClearPolitics.com average of polls has Biden leading Trump 51 percent to 43.9 percent.

The 77-year-old Biden last visited Erie County on July 1, 2009. Then-Vice President Biden and other members of the Obama administration held a forum at Seneca High School in Greene Township to discuss rural broadband service. 

A Biden visit to Erie will address one of local Democrats’ biggest criticisms of the party’s 2016 nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who did not visit Erie during her losing campaign four years ago. Trump carried Erie County and Pennsylvania by a slim margin, becoming the first Republican candidate to win the state since 1988 and the first to win Erie County since 1984. 

Trump campaigned in Erie in August 2016 and visited as president in October 2018 to stump for several Republican candidates on the midterm ballot. Trump’s second son, Eric Trump, spoke outside of the Bayfront Convention Center on Sept. 21.

Both The Hill in 2019 and The New York Times this week have named Erie County to its list of the 10 most important counties during the presidential election. 

Contact Matthew Rink at mrink@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ETNrink.

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