Dear Presidential Candidates: Yinz People Are (Still) Neglecting Western Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH — President Joe Biden campaigned in Pittsburgh during a week-long stay in Pennsylvania in April, and his visit was between stops in his hometown of Scranton and his favorite Pennsylvania city of Philadelphia.

He met with union workers, pledged to preserve American ownership of US Steel, and even stopped at Sheetz, a shrewd nod to the strange but very real rivalry between convenience stores and Wawa.

But he hasn’t come back since then.

Presumptive Republican Party candidate Donald Trump’s final rally in western Pennsylvania took place in Erie last July.

Both candidates have campaigned repeatedly in the eastern part of the state — Trump ventured as far west as Harrisburg for a rally in February.

With all due respect to both candidates: get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and head west. It’s almost July, the first debate is behind us, and if you think you can win Pennsylvania by simply campaigning in the eastern half of the country, you’re in for a rude awakening in November.

Biden focuses on unions and steel in first visit to Pittsburgh in 2024

Yes, Philadelphia is critical. And yes, compared to Pittsburgh, it’s a much easier (read: shorter) trip from, say, the New York Courthouse, and it’s practically just around the corner from Wilmington, Delaware and a stone’s throw from Washington, D.C.

First Lady Jill Biden often describes herself as a Philly girl — and she still has a hint of a Philly accent — but even she visited western Pennsylvania more often than the top candidates.

Geographically, it is much easier to campaign in eastern Pennsylvania. But why any candidate wouldn’t campaign in the crucial – and changing – Western region of the biggest battleground in the 2024 contest (with all due respect to Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia, of course) remains a mystery.

Yes, Allegheny County is blue, so Pittsburgh isn’t exactly amiable territory for a Republican candidate; but then neither is Philadelphia. Progressive candidates picked up significant support in western Pennsylvania, with Democrats Ed Gainey, Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee creating a plan how to run a progressive campaign and shake up the aged guard. What are you doing to win over this growing bloc of voters?

There are also counties in Western Pennsylvania where some of the oldest populations of any of the oldest battlefield statesand as the election results repeatedly show, seniors came to vote honestly. But they also expect their candidates to give them some time to talk.

In 2016, Trump turned Pennsylvania red, and in 2020, Biden turned it blue again. the margin of victory was diminutiveand while polls show only a diminutive part of the campaign picture, in polls conducted before Thursday’s debate (which could change the outcome), Trump and Biden were a statistical tie for Pennsylvania. Every county in Western Pennsylvania is crucial, and in this neck of the woods, a good number of counties are potentially flippable if the candidate puts in the effort.

The math of the Electoral College requires a candidate to win 19 of Pennsylvania’s votes this year; and neglecting the huge swath of the Keystone State west of the Cumberland Valley won’t be enough. Biden’s campaign has two dozen offices in Pennsylvania, including one in Pittsburgh, so at least they’ve acknowledged the need for a regional presence. Trump is trailing, but has opened a handful of Pennsylvania offices in Philadelphia, Reading, Lancaster and Erie.

However, both candidates have something to work on to convince the yinzers. We’re in the stout of the 2024 White House campaign, and Pennsylvania campaigns should now focus on: It’s time to move west.

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