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Joe Biden chooses Philadelphia for 2020 presidential campaign headquarters

Biden has staked much of his campaign pitch on being able to win back Pennsylvania after the state narrowly supported President Donald Trump in 2016.

Joe Biden (second from left) greets people at Gianni's Pizza with his sister Valerie Biden Owens (far right) in Wilmington, Del., last month.
Joe Biden (second from left) greets people at Gianni's Pizza with his sister Valerie Biden Owens (far right) in Wilmington, Del., last month.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden will base his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, setting up in a city where he has deep ties and in a state that is central to his strategy.

A formal announcement is expected Thursday, just ahead of Biden’s Saturday rally at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“We’re proud to anchor our campaign in the birthplace of American democracy,” said a statement to The Inquirer from Greg Schultz, Biden’s campaign manager. “Philadelphia is a thriving city and a testament to the American spirit, built by the ingenuity and tenacity of ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Its storied history and celebrated diversity will serve as an inspiration for Team Biden, and is the ideal setting to continue our fight for the soul of this nation.”

The national headquarters, which will be in Center City, will have around 50 staffers to start, a number that could grow as the campaign goes on, and especially if Biden wins the Democratic nomination. The site will become the day-to-day nerve center for Biden’s strategic planning, media team, and others.

>>READ MORE: Poll: In Pennsylvania, Joe Biden has a big lead on Democrats — and on Trump

The former vice president has made Pennsylvania a prime focus of his early campaign, with rallies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia bookending trips to early voting states. For months, he had been said to be eyeing Philadelphia as a potential base of operations, and held a fund-raiser in the city on the first day of his campaign.

Biden, though, is likely to spend much of the primary traveling as Democrats compete in contests that span the country.

>>READ MORE: Joe Biden is running for president, launches his 2020 campaign

Democrats and Republicans both view Pennsylvania as one of the most critical battlegrounds in the 2020 race, and the Scranton-born Biden has staked much of his pitch on being able to win back the state that narrowly supported President Donald Trump in 2016.

Biden, the early leader in polls of the Democratic primary field, was sometimes dubbed Pennsylvania’s “third senator” when he represented Delaware and, after his term as vice president, established the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.

His wife, Jill, grew up in Willow Grove.

Pennsylvania has also been a major focus for Trump, a Penn graduate who has held dozens of rallies in the state and is scheduled to return Monday for an event near Williamsport, two days after Biden appears in Philadelphia.

Presidential candidates often base their campaigns in places that have both personal meaning and that speak to their political appeals. Trump ran his 2016 campaign from his Trump Tower skyscraper in Manhattan, while Hillary Clinton put her HQ in Brooklyn. Former President Barack Obama’s campaign was based in Chicago, where he began his career as a community organizer, and his 2012 challenger Mitt Romney centered his campaign in Boston, where he had once served as governor of Massachusetts.