Vice President Mike Pence and Joe Biden, Pence’s predecessor and the presumed Democratic nominee, plan to campaign at about the same time Thursday in Pennsylvania, underscoring the state’s status as a crucial battleground in the race for the White House.
Pence will stop in Lancaster, Malvern, and then Philadelphia, where he will meet with police officers and their families amid weeks of protests against police brutality nationally and in the city.
Pennsylvania has already hosted both men several times in recent months.
Pence’s visit is part of a bus tour through eastern Pennsylvania, which will start in Lancaster with a fund-raiser at a farm, followed by stops at the Rajant Corp. in Malvern and at the FOP Lodge 5 in Philadelphia, the city’s police union.
Pence will likely be in Malvern speaking about the economy around the same time Biden is talking about economic recovery in Dunmore.
FOP Lodge 5 president John McNesby said Pence will meet with the six officers injured in a North Philadelphia standoff last August and families of officers killed in the line of duty. Later in the evening, the FOP will have a separate “Back the Blue” rally outside the union hall in Northeast Philadelphia.
“From what I understand he’s been meaning and wanting to address the officers in that shooting that day and this was the first chance I think he’s been able to do that,” McNesby said. “You put all politics aside, it’s for the officers. People are going to want to do what they want to do and vote the way they want to vote and that’s fine, but it just shows there’s some thought out there for those guys.”
The visit comes as President Donald Trump has slumped in national polls and in Pennsylvania, and as Trump aims to reframe the campaign as a battle against the radical left. Even as polls show public support for the protests, Trump has asserted the movement has darker motives. In a speech at Mount Rushmore on Friday, Trump accused protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”
In Philadelphia, protests started in late May after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and have continued for more than a month. In response, Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council agreed to nix a planned $19 million increase in the city’s police budget.
Trump has denounced activists’ calls to “defund the police,” and in ads and on the campaign trail he’s falsely accused Biden of supporting defunding law enforcement.
Pence will do a midday fund-raiser at a Lancaster County farm owned by Ron Kreider, the vice president’s first fund-raising event since the coronavirus struck, said Bob Asher, cochair of the Trump campaign’s Pennsylvania finance committee. The event will raise money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Asher said Pence was originally scheduled to do the event in March, but it was scuttled by the pandemic.
Pence will also visit the Rajant Corp., which makes wireless communication technology, for an afternoon roundtable discussion on reopening the economy.
Since taking office, he and the president have been frequent visitors to the state, which Trump won by 44,000 votes in 2016, or less than 1%. Biden has also made several trips to Pennsylvania recently, including to Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Delaware County last month. The campaigns have taken different approaches during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump recently hosted his first campaign rally in months in Oklahoma, where participants were not required to wear face masks. Biden has taken a more cautious approach, with masks and social distancing at his events.