(PHILADELPHIA) — Pennsylvania’s staking its claim as center of the political universe this weekend as presidents past and present campaign for their candidates ahead of midterms Election Day.
President Joe Biden and Barack Obama are teaming up Saturday to stump for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro and Senate candidate John Fetterman in Philadelphia at 5 p.m. ET.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump will be in Latrobe, where he’s holding a 7 p.m. rally at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport for Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“They don’t call it the Keystone State for nothing,” said David Dix, a Philadelphia-based political strategist who has worked on Republican and Democratic campaigns, about the 11th-hour attention from both sides. “Once again, Pennsylvania is the political epicenter of the country and the balance of the House and Senate weigh from here on Tuesday.”
“It’s just another indicator that we are a deep purple state that makes up our mind late and oftentimes does split the ticket among Democrats and Republicans,” Dix added.
Pennsylvania’s marquee Senate race could determine which party wins control of the chamber. Republicans need to gain just one seat to become the majority, as Democrats currently control the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaker.
“That race has been on the razor’s edge for a long time,” said Christopher Nicholas, a longtime Republican strategist in Pennsylvania.
The margin between Fetterman and Oz is getting tighter by the day, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, with the two candidates separated by just 0.4 percentage points.
Fetterman spoke to the hosts of “The View” on Friday about the contest, first celebrating an 11th-hour endorsement from Oprah Winfrey — whose daytime show helped launch Oz as “America’s doctor” in the 2000s. “It’s unbelievable,” Fetterman said.
In a message to voters, Fetterman pitched himself as a lifelong public servant while accusing Oz “essentially using Pennsylvania” and attempted to buy the seat.
Oz, in a closing pitch at a rally in Elizabethtown on Wednesday, described himself as an agent of change and encouraged attendees to tell neighbors about his message on the economy, crime and the border.
“There are three topics that I have spent my campaign dwelling on,” he said. “They are the kitchen table issues that every family in Pennsylvania has talked about.”
The gubernatorial race between Shapiro and Mastriano is another contentious race, and one of the biggest tests of Trump’s election denialism on the ballot this cycle.
Mastriano, a Republican state legislator, attended Trump’s Jan. 6 rally just before the Capitol attack and has continued to spread the former president’s lies about the 2020 election results.
FiveThirtyEight’s polling average shows Mastriano behind in the race by roughly 10 percentage points.
Biden has campaigned heavily in Pennsylvania this year, and in this final stop in Philadelphia he and Obama will look to boost Democratic enthusiasm in a key area of the state.
“Democrats view it as crucial to get as high a turnout as possible in the city, especially among the Black community” said Nicholas. “That’s always the target for them.”
Biden’s success in the Democratic strongholds Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and their neighboring suburbs, ultimately led to his win there in 2020 over Trump.
Trump last visited Pennsylvania in September, when he held a rally for Oz and Mastriano in Wilkes-Barre. The stakes are high for the former president, who is laying the groundwork for a 2024 campaign and could make an announcement as soon as the week of Nov. 14, according to sources.
“Latrobe is essentially the epicenter of Republican turnout,” Dix said, noting nearby Allegheny County probably has more registered Republicans “than anywhere else in the state.”
“I certainly understand the strategy and why the former president decided to rally there,” Dix said.
– ABC News’ Will McDuffie contributed to this report.
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