LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — Months ahead of the November elections, political figures from the country's two largest parties are descending on Northeastern Pennsylvania.
President Biden appeared in Wilkes-Barre to rally support for his "Safer America Plan" Tuesday, just days ahead of former President Donald Trump's scheduled "Save America" rally at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township on Saturday.
"This is a state that can determine who controls Congress. It can determine and important governorship in this country," said Dr. JoyAnna Hopper, a University of Scranton political science professor.
Hopper said Pennsylvania has become a critical swing state in recent election cycles.
Northeastern Pennsylvania has been in the limelight, she argues, because of President Biden's personal connection to the area.
"Biden has pretty routinely, and not just in his presidential run, referred to Scranton as his hometown. This is a means of connecting to voters," she said. "Scranton is characterized as being hard-working. It's a blue-collar town. It's a voting demographic that both Republican and Democratic parties continue to try to reach out to. So, this is a good place for candidates from both parties to go."
But do these rallies make a difference?
While they often feature appearances from candidates and politicians at every level, Hopper said they're often more about rallying the party base than attracting new voters.
Depending on where they stand, she said, some officials may shy away from big events with polarizing figures.
"While President Biden's approval ratings have shown some improvement recently, there still may be some candidates that are reluctant to attach themselves to him, to appear with him," Hopper said. "The same goes with Trump."
But that doesn't mean the rallies are slowing down.
"The fact that you're seeing candidates from both parties that are showing up here and visiting all parts of the state, it just shows how crucial Pennsylvania is in determining the direction of American politics," Hopper added.
Dr. Hopper said Pennsylvania's political climate mirrors the larger battle playing out in races across the nation, in which traditional candidates are being challenged by candidates who have spent most-if-not-all of their careers outside of politics.
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