Joe Biden says Pa. is his White House keystone. Four things to think about | Tuesday Morning Coffee

April 30, 2019 7:06 am

Joe Biden campaigns in Pittsburgh (Politico – screen capture)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
We had a feeling that ex-Veep Joe Biden was going to play up the importance of Pennsylvania in 2020 during his stop at a Teamsters banquet hall in Pittsburgh on Monday. And the other Scion of Scranton didn’t disappoint.

As Politico reportsBiden offered a “carefully calibrated” message that sets him up as the Democratic candidate best positioned to take on President Donald Trump. And the road to the White House runs straight through the Keystone State.

More from Politico:“’If I’m going to be able to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it’s going to happen here,’ Bidentold a packed crowd at the Teamsters Local 249 banquet hall.

Biden offered an economic message tailored for western Pennsylvania, where he praised organized labor and denigrated Wall Street CEOs and companies that used the Trump tax cuts to buy back stocks while laying off workers. He singled out the president by name, and also with implicit criticisms that left no question about whom he was referring to.

” … While other Democratic contenders criticize the president to varying degree, few have focused their attention so squarely on him. Biden announced his candidacy last week via an unorthodox video announcement that directly aimed at Trump’s response to violent demonstrations in Charlottesville in 2017. And Biden’s decision to headquarter his campaign in Philadelphia — and kick it off with a rally at the other end of the state in Pittsburgh — underscore his connection to Pennsylvania, a key industrial swing state Trump unexpectedly captured in 2016.”

There’s no doubt that the 76-year-old Biden, who’s spent a half-century in public life, is going to dramatically contrast his maturity and experience against the undisciplined Trump, a political newcomer who continues to learn on the job — often with disastrous results.

But as University of Virginia political analyst Kyle Kondik points out, the experience argument can cut both ways. Herewith, four things to think about as Biden officially revs up his White House bid, and with it, an effort to recapture a reliably blue state that Trumpcaptured by a mere percentage point in 2016.

1. If he’s elected, Biden would be the most experienced candidate to ever serve in the White House:
Biden has spent 44 years in major elected office: He served from 1973 to 2009 in the Senate, and then an additional eight years as vice president,” Kondik writes. “Vox tallied all of the military and elected office experience of the presidents, finding that the average president had served 13 years in public office prior to becoming president and 5.6 years in the military. Biden’s 46 years of formal public office experience would dwarf that of the current leader, Democrat Martin Van Buren, whose 31 years in public office currently stands as the highest total of public office experience of any incoming president, according to Vox’s count. The leaders in military experience are Whig Zachary Taylor and Republican Dwight Eisenhower, both of whom served for roughly four decades in the military prior to being elected president.”

2. But experience isn’t always a predictor of success:
“The presidency isn’t a job that necessarily goes to only the most veteran politicians,” Kondik writes. “In fact, having a long record in office might be Biden’s undoing if he ultimately falls short of the White House, either in the primary or the general election. We have already seen how some episodes from Biden’s past, such as his handling of Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’ 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings, could haunt him in a campaign. He has many votes, and many actions, he’ll have to defend or explain.

3. The ‘Senate Curse.’ And the third time isn’t always a charm:
The current campaign marks Biden’s third try for the White House.  And, as Kondikobserves, “American history is dotted with legendary senators who tried and failed multiple times to ascend to the presidency. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Websterrepresented the “Great Triumvirate” of the pre-Civil War Senate, but none got the top job despite seeking it repeatedly. Robert A. Taft, a true conservative known as “Mr. Republican,” unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination several times, losing out for the final time to Eisenhower, a man with no elected officeholding experience prior to becoming president but great military and executive experience as the commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II. Vice President Hubert Humphrey was one of the great leaders of the liberal cause in the Senate; he lost out on winning the presidency to Nixon, another political lifer whose day finally came in 1968 after agonizing losses for president in 1960 and California governor in 1962. Recent GOP nominees Robert Dole (1996) and John McCain(2008) each had decades of elected experience in addition to military experience and sought the presidency as a capstone to their careers; both lost.”

4. Even with all that, Democrats may still be more likely to want a steady hand on the tiller:
“The fact that the Democratic Party electorate has more moderates than the Republican electorate and that the Democrats seem to value experience more are two factors that could benefit Biden, who both has a lot of experience and will position himself closer to the center than most of his Democratic rivals,” Kondik observed. That said, we shouldn’t treat these poll findings as the final word on what will animate Democratic voters in the primary season next year. As FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich recently wrote, at this time in the 2016 cycle more Republicans said they valued experience and a proven record in a presidential candidate than new ideas and a different approach. By the fall of 2015, Republicans flipped on this question, which probably was a reflection of the fact that Trump was leading the GOP primary polls at that point. In other words, Democrats may say they value experience now, but their answers to those questions could change if a candidate with less experience moves into the lead in the primary.”

Our Stuff.
Just in time for the primary, Sarah Anne Hughes has what you need to know on… the latest push for open primaries.
Elizabeth Hardison hit a joint House/Senate hearing on marijuana legalization — and has a full report,
Stephen Caruso caught up with House Speaker Mike Turzai, and has his plan to encourage natural gas-related employment to all 67 counties.
Hardison has the details on the swearing in of new state Sen. Pam Iovino, D-Allegheny.
Educators rallied in the Capitol rotunda for charter school reform.
Gov. Tom Wolf rolled out his plan to fight climate change in the face of inaction from Washington D.C.

On our Commentary Page, three Pennsylvania community college presidents talk about their efforts to combat hunger among their students. And state Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, a former hospital administrator, talks about the need to preserve and defend the Affordable Care Act.

The Inquirer on the fight over whether the state should expand a long-running tax credit for parents who send their kids to private school.
PennLive has more on the debate over whether, three weeks before the primary, the financially troubled Harrisburg schools should go into receivership.
Here’s The Morning Call on the options confronting Democratic primary voters as Joe Biden turns Pennsylvania into a key 2020 battleground. 

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

The Post-Gazette has more on the Biden rally.
The PG also looks at calls by Democratic lawmakers in police use-of-force laws.
WHYY-FM has more on the state committing to the goals of the Paris climate accords.
The Philly Art Museum will loan out its art to three midstate museumsWITF-FM reports.
PoliticsPa has its own take on the Biden rally in Pittsburgh.
Three red states have been shut out of efforts to pass Medicaid work requirements, reports.
Politico runs down Donald Trump’s tough, proposed changes to the asylum system.
Congressional Democrats will offer a ‘bold’ infrastructure plan ahead of their meeting with TrumpRoll Call reports.

What Happens on Twitter:
Looks like someone struck a nerve.

What Goes On.
Here’s how you can tell it’s a session day – the schedule is absolutely bonkers.
The House gavels in at 11 a.m. The Senate gets rolling at 1 p.m.
9:30 a.m., Media Center: Sens. Katie Muth and Sharif Street, as well as Rep. Chris Rabb, and others call for abolishing the death penalty
10 a.m., Main Rotunda: Rep. Chris Sainato, and others, on ‘military family education’
10 am., East Rotunda: Distracted Driving awareness event
10 a.m., Media Center: Rep. Daryl Metcalfe channels his inner anti-vaxxer
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: Rally for ‘Police Accountability’
1 p.m., East Rotunda: Young citizens demand change on gun laws
1:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: Cancer Action Day event
4:30 p.m., 8E-W Main Capitol: Senate Dems screen a documentary called ‘Keep Your Trash.’ That’ll be followed by a panel discussion on economic justice issues

9 a.m., Harrisburg Hilton:
 Gov. Tom Wolf talks about investments in early childhood education.
9:45 a.m., Harrisburg Hilton: Gov. Tom Wolf also talks about strengthening the state’s economy.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
7:45 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Kathy Rapp
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Barb Gleim
8 am.: Breakfast for Rep Wendy Ullman
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Joe Ciresi
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Mike Zabel
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Ben Sanchez
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Wayne Fontana
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Scott Hutchinson
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Kurt Masser
5:30 p.m.: Roast of Sen. Don White
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ed Neilson
5:30 p.m: Reception for Rep. Marty Flynn
6 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ryan Mackenzie
Ride the circuit, and give at the max at every event, and you’re out a truly, truly repulsive $31,000 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a little something from Redinho to get you through your Tuesday morning. It’s ‘Playing with Fire.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
St. Louis 
went up 2 games to 1 over the Stars on Monday, winning 4-3 in Dallas.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.