Biden isn’t getting that Erie feeling

ERIE, Pennsylvania — This weekend, this northwestern city of Pennsylvania will be filled with families from all over the western part of the state, from as far south as Fayette County to adjacent Mercer County, all here to descend on the beautiful beaches of Presque Isle State Park.

Unless you are not from this part of the region, including West Virginia and eastern Ohio, you probably think of Erie only as a post-industrial city that still clings to its manufacturing base to stay afloat.

That is only partly true.

For many blue collar western Pennsylvanians, including my family, this was our Atlantic Ocean, our boardwalk, our beach. We proudly vacationed here, still do, often packing our own food for most of the trip, staying in tiny tourist cottages at the entrance of the beach. And, if we were lucky or our parents had saved enough money, we went to the family-owned Waldameer Park and enjoyed a thrilling roller coaster ride or the bumper cars.

This weekend, that same tradition will again be shared by thousands of families who will cook out at the picnic tables, shower off at the concrete block changing stations, or ride their bikes along the stunning 13-mile trail. The trail meanders throughout the peninsula, where you will pass the Presque Isle Lighthouse until you land at the 100-year-old towering statue of Commodore Perry, a hero of the War of 1812.

Today’s visitors still will stay at the tourist cabins, still go to Waldameer Park (which now has a series of daring water slides), and will still grab milkshakes at Sara’s Diner.

The focus this weekend for nearly everyone will be celebrating the men and women who served our country, as well as celebrating each others’ company at picnics.

That spell will be broken here by Tuesday morning when local and national news reports will remind people that President Joe Biden will be heading once again to Pennsylvania to campaign.

Last year at this time Biden marked his 29th visit to Pennsylvania, his most frequent place to visit outside of his home of Delaware. By my back-of-napkin count, this visit will mark his fifth this year.

In his visits here, Biden has delivered his dark and angry battle for the “soul of the nation,” lobbing “extreme MAGA Republican” accusations at anyone who didn’t vote for Democrats. He has also gone to a Sheetz service station, beloved in this state, that was followed up one day later by the Biden administration hitting Sheetz with a discrimination suit.

Biden has also used the entire Kennedy family as a backdrop at a campaign event and has been on the wrong side of his own party on numerous energy issues, including pausing LNG exports and enacting the 45V Clean Energy Hydrogen Production tax. The latter will cut Pennsylvania out of the booming Hydrogen industry.

Biden has also gone after the snack industry. Pennsylvania is the snack capital of the United States, fondly called the “snack belt,” where 80% of the pretzels in the country consumed are made. It is a process that involves farmers growing the wheat, the processors who deliver it by truck to the manufacturers who make the doughy delight and are once again delivered by truck throughout the country.

Under Biden’s watch, 900 men and women lost their jobs at the Cleveland Cliffs Steel plant in Wheeling thanks to a ruling by the International Trade Commission rejecting a proposal to set tariffs on foreign steel imports. The steelworkers who tirelessly pushed the government to set tariffs on steel imports instead shut down the plant just over a week ago.

Biden’s visits here are almost always exclusively not in places like Erie but in the cities and suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Philadelphia, where he will be on Wednesday, delivered one-third of the total votes in the entire state for him in 2020.

Local Democrats bemoan him for choosing Philly as his favorite destination spot. Last month, former congressman Conor Lamb told the New York Times he wanted to see Biden step out of the structured visits in Philadelphia and go to places like Erie to seek votes.

In short you can’t just win Philadelphia and expect to win Pennsylvania, Ask Hillary Clinton how that worked out in 2016.

While it is very early, the numbers here in Pennsylvania for Biden are abysmal for a man who calls this his original home state and spends an extraordinary amount of time here. Last week’s Philadelphia Inquirer-New York Times-Siena College poll showed the Delaware Democrat trailing former President Donald Trump 47% to 44%.

In 2016 Trump beat Clinton in Pennsylvnaia by 41,000 votes. In 2020, Biden beat Trump here by 80,000 votes. Since then, two Democrats, Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA) and Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), won statewide races handily, with both carrying this important swing county of Erie.

Both Shapiro and Fetterman wisely ran as men willing to show up in places Democrats have long abandoned, were willing to buck Washington Democrats, and have mostly done that as elected leaders.

Because of that, they have remained popular and hold strong approval ratings. But things have changed dramatically here in just 18 short months. Heck, they have changed dramatically since last year’s municipal elections when the registered Democratic advantage over Republicans was 445,000, a number that fell by over 4,500. In the same time period, Republicans gained over 44,000, and independents added over 26,000.

Here in Erie, Republicans added over 1,300 new registered voters.

For context, in 2020, Democratic voter registration was a whopping 600,000 voter advantage to today’s 389,000 registration advantage, according to the newest numbers released by the Pennsylvania Department of State.


What Biden or his team seems to be missing is an understanding as to where to go in this state. As in 2016, this race will not be won in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia but in places like Erie, Beaver, and Northampton counties on the backs of working-class black, white, and Hispanic voters.

The candidate who gets that will win the state. 

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