Trump, Mastriano, Dr. Oz, and Bognet will rally in northeast PA days after Biden visit
Former President Donald Trump will hold a rally in Luzerne County on Saturday, days after President Joe Biden spoke nearby.
Joining Trump at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza will be state Sen. Doug Mastriano, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Jim Bognet, the Republican candidates for Pennsylvania governor, U.S. senator and U.S. representative from the 8th District, respectively.
Trump’s Save America PAC describes the Wilkes-Barre rally as “a continuation of President Trump’s unprecedented effort to advance the MAGA agenda by energizing voters and highlighting America First candidates and causes.”
The president’s party — Democrats, in this case — typically loses seats in midterms, noted Adam McGlynn, a political science professor at East Stroudsburg University, “and Republicans are hoping to be able to retake the House of Representatives.” The 8th District, where this rally is taking place, and the neighboring 7th District, are “prime targets for that takeover.”
Both races are generally considered toss-ups by political prognosticators, though the Cook Political Report rates the 7th as “lean Republican” and FiveThirtyEight rates the 8th as “lean Democratic.”
The region has competitive House races now, but it will also be crucial if Trump decides to run for president again in 2024. If he does, and if he wins Pennsylvania, “it’s going to be northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s going to be the Lehigh Valley,” McGlynn said. Those regions are “his best pick-up options for votes.”
Turning to this year’s statewide races, McGlynn said observers are seeing Mastriano and Oz “not really being able to capitalize on what is otherwise a favorable situation” for Republicans.
That could change, though, with inflation being a key factor to watch.
Republicans will have a midterm message about gas and food prices, McGlynn said, while Democrats should talk about Biden’s accomplishments and “remind voters Democrats are keeping promises.”
Pennsylvania’s statewide races “don’t fit in to those models,” however. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for Senate, is painting Oz as a carpetbagger from New Jersey, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is casting his opponent, Mastriano, as “out of touch with mainstream Pennsylvanians.”
Mastriano has pushed false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, and at least 17 Republicans have endorsed Shapiro.
McGlynn added that while midterms usually feature “more enthusiasm for the party that’s out of power,” he’s watching to see whether Supreme Court decisions such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade will “galvanize Democratic voters, and especially women, maybe more than we might expect in a usual midterm election.”
Biden's trip to Wilkes-Barre
Trump’s visit follows Biden’s Tuesday trip to Wilkes University to speak about gun violence prevention. Shapiro, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf were in attendance, among other local elected officials. Fetterman was not, but Biden said they had spoken and called him “a hell of a guy. A powerful voice for working people.”
Biden spoke about his Safer America Plan, which would “help communities recruit, hire, and train nationwide more than 100,000 additional officers — accountable officers — for community policing.”
He also touted the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which he signed in June. The law expands background checks for gun buyers under age 21 and incentivizes red flag laws, among other measures.
“But we're not stopping here. I'm determined to ban assault weapons in this country,” he said. “Determined. I did it once before, and I'll do it again.”
He described the damage caused by bullets fired from AR-15s, noting that some parents in Uvalde, Texas, had to “supply DNA” as part of identification efforts after a mass shooter killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school.
With a reference to the Poconos, Biden questioned why anyone would need these weapons to hunt. “My dad used to love to hunt in the Poconos when we lived in Scranton,” he said. “How many deer or bear are wearing Kevlar vests, huh?”
At the end of his speech, Biden turned to the topic of political violence.
“So let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress: Don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on the sixth,” he said, referring to Jan. 6, 2021, when a pro-Trump mob rioted at the U.S. Capitol as Congress was due to certify Biden’s 2020 victory.
Biden added that “it's sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI.”
The rally on Saturday will be Trump’s first since that search.