Everyone knew that Joe Biden was going to run for president again.
His undeclared presence on every hypothetical ballot was an open assumption for months. Despite a Democratic field that contenders almost large enough to be a hockey roster, Biden consistently polled higher than even the buzziest newcomers.
His declaration last week was a formality. So why did the former vice president wait until Monday for his first real appearance, and why did he do it in Pittsburgh? Why not Scranton, as that other Pennsylvania city’s native son? Why not Philadelphia, the largest bell to ring in the state and with all that Founding Fathers mojo to spare?
Because the Pittsburgh voters are the game in 2020.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough spoke last Tuesday about Biden’s union audience appearance in Lawrenceville, saying it was about the importance of the state’s electoral votes.
“This election is Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,” Scarborough said.
But it can all be boiled down to Pittsburgh’s little corner of the Keystone.
Aside from being a key swing area in a key swing state, southwestern Pennsylvania is a microcosm of the country. It is both urban and rural. It is industrial and agricultural. It encompasses an aging core votership that is balanced by a large student population. It is less purple than it is swirls of red and blue. And that’s just demographics.
Look at the issues and you see Pittsburgh everywhere.
Economy? The struggle to reconcile the manufacturing past with changing industries doesn’t just sit on every street corner. It zips around in driverless cars.
Energy? This is coal country being fracked for gas in the shadow of nuclear towers and we pay the highest pump tax in the country. We understand the need for good energy policy.
Health care? Medicare? Can we introduce you to Highmark and UPMC and see if you, barrel of 2020 candidates, can figure that mess out?
And what about gun control? We can sit you at a table with people who believe deeply in the 2nd Amendment, people who use guns to feed their families and people whose worship service was ripped apart by bullets.
Pittsburgh and her neighbors have more to offer than just electoral math. Talking to Pittsburgh is talking to the heart of the 2020 voter. That’s why Biden came here first.
What’s surprising is that in a 20-person race, no one else found the starting line in the Steel City.
— The Tribune Democrat