Democrats John Fetterman, Josh Shapiro to skip Joe Biden visit


Two top Pennsylvania Democrats who are seeking higher office in 2022 planned to pass on President Biden’s Friday visit to the Keystone State due to scheduling conflicts as the administration struggles with poor polling numbers at the start of its second year in office. 

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman — who is running for the Senate seat held by the retiring Republican Pat Toomey — and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the party’s likely gubernatorial nominee, were on track to miss Friday’s event with the president in Pittsburgh.

Fetterman was among the officials who responded to the site of a bridge collapse Friday morning in the Steel City, about four miles from where Biden was due to speak later in the day.

However, the lieutenant governor told the Associated Press he was committed to attending an evening meeting of the Democratic state committee in Harrisburg, approximately 200 miles away.

Joe Biden is scheduled to appear in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon.
Biden is scheduled to appear in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon.

Shapiro spokesperson Will Simons did not detail what was keeping the state AG away from Biden’s event, but noted that Shapiro had appeared with the president three times in the summer and fall of 2021.

“Josh Shapiro is running to be the governor of Pennsylvania and he’s focused on the issues that matter to Pennsylvania families,” Simons told the AP. “Like every American should, Josh wants our president to be successful and we’ll continue welcoming President Biden to his home state of Pennsylvania.”

Biden will be joined for his event by term-limited Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who is not up for re-election until 2024. The president is due to give remarks touting the bipartisan infrastructure law he signed in November.

Another leading Democratic Senate candidate, Pittsburgh-area US Rep. Conor Lamb, will also be in attendance. 

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman responded to the bridge collapse Friday morning.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is hoping to fill the Senate seat held by the retiring Republican Pat Toomey.

“President Biden first announced his infrastructure plan in Pittsburgh, and Conor looks forward to welcoming him back and talking about all the good jobs that bill will create in the Pittsburgh area and all over Pennsylvania,” said Lamb campaign manger Abby Nassif Murphy.

Fetterman and Shapiro are not the first Democratic candidates to distance themselves from the president as Biden’s job approval rating continues to drop. 

Earlier this month, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams missed Biden’s Atlanta speech calling on the Senate to pass election reform legislation due to a “scheduling” issue. 

Attorney General Josh Shapiro will also miss Biden's appearance.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro will miss President Biden’s appearance. He is “focused on the issues that matter to Pennsylvania families.”

At the time, Biden assured reporters “everything is fine” between him and Abrams. 

“I spoke to Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship. We got our scheduling mixed up,” the president said. “I talked with her at length this morning. We are all on the same page and everything is fine.”

In November, Beto O’Rourke — the presumptive Democratic nominee for Texas governor — declined to invite Biden to campaign with him, saying his campaign will not be “about anyone from outside our state.” 

“This campaign in Texas is not going to be about Joe Biden. It’s not going to be about Donald Trump. It’s not going to be about anyone from outside of our state. This is going to be about the people of Texas and what the people of Texas want,” O’Rourke told CNN. “I’m focused on Texas and on my fellow Texans. Those are the people most important to me. There’s no politician, there’s no other person from outside of this state who can help change the course of this election, for better or for worse.”

Some have speculated that Biden’s low poll numbers are driving the distance between the president and high-profile candidates. 

A recent poll found Biden trailing a generic Republican presidential candidate by nine percentage points — 46 percent to 37 percent. 

Biden was born in Scranton and lived in Pennsylvania until the age of 10. The state’s 20 electoral votes were crucial to putting him over the top in the 2020 presidential election. However, a November poll found that Pennsylvania voters would have picked Trump by six percentage points — 51 percent to 45 percent — in a rerun of the contest.

Rep. Conor Lamb will be in attendance with Biden this evening.
Rep. Conor Lamb will be in attendance with President Biden this afternoon.

In October, a survey done by Franklin and Marshall College found that only 32 percent of Keystone State voters thought Biden was doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president — a 14 percentage-point drop from June. The poll also found that Pennsylvania Democrats were losing faith in the president as well, with their approval of Biden dropping from 78 percent to 62 percent. 

Biden’s nationwide job approval rating has steadily dropped since taking office last year, as his administration has attempted to grapple with several crises including a surge in illegal immigration, the chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the COVID-19 pandemic, and most recently, high tensions with Russia over Ukraine. 

According to polling averages calculated by RealClearPolitics, only 40.8 percent of Americans approve of the 46th president while 54.8 percent disapprove.

With Post wires

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