When President Joe Biden came to Cleveland on Wednesday to tout his success at keeping Americans on the job, it apparently hit home with one prominent Democrat: U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Tim Ryan was too busy to show up for Biden’s speech.
Ryan, who is in a tough race against Republican J.D. Vance, had “a busy campaign schedule with prior commitments,” his spokesperson told Roll Call.
Ryan wasn’t the only one. The Democrats’ candidate for governor of Ohio, Nan Whaley, was also a no-show for Biden’s appearance.
It’s part of a national trend. Last week, Virginia Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanbeger, when asked if she wanted the president to campaign for her in her swing district, told Fox News, “I intend to do the campaigning myself.” And prominent progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) created headaches for the White House with her recent remarks that if Biden runs for re-election she may not support him.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Still, Biden is determined to stay on the campaign trail and the head of the Democratic Legislative Campaign told Politico she hopes he will campaign with state legislative candidates in the coming months.
“We have a great relationship with the Biden White House,” said chair Jessica Post. “So we hope that translates into seeing President Biden out campaigning for us, for state legislatures.”
In Pennsylvania, where 54 percent of voters have a negative view of Biden, that may be wishful thinking — even in the blue environs of the Delaware Valley. While gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro insists he would welcome the president to join him on the campaign trail, the question is whether other Keystone State Democrats feel the same.
Delaware Valley Journal reached out to seven Democratic candidates for both state House and Senate across the region, asking if they would be willing to appear with Biden. Only one responded.
“With the national attention on this election, I am confident that public officials from both parties will be visiting our area,” Ann Marie Mitchell, Democratic nominee in state Senate District 6 in Bucks County, said in a statement.
She added she hopes that and other efforts by her team will lead to higher voter turnout and engagement in the campaign, but declined to say whether she would appear with Biden if given the chance.
The other six candidates contacted included incumbents like state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery) and state Rep. Danielle Friel-Otten (D-HD155), and challengers like Cathy Spahr in House District 160 (Delaware/Chester), and Jill Dennin in Senate District 24 (Montgomery/Bucks/Berks).
“When it comes to Democrats in tough elections, I guess Joe Biden doesn’t ‘have a friend in Pennsylvania,'” quipped GOP strategist Charlie O’Neill. “And who can blame them? Running with Joe Biden this election cycle is like starting a baseball game down 10 runs. Nevertheless, Democrats nominated him, and they have to defend his record. So whether they want to or not, all Democrats on the ballot have to contend with Biden’s lack of success.”
Biden convincingly carried the Delaware Valley in 2020 while outperforming down-ballot candidates and winning some of the districts Democrats hope to flip this November.
However, Biden today is more unpopular than he was in 2020. In a new Harvard/Harris poll, 71 percent of Americans said they do not want him to seek a second term. And a new Civiqs poll put Biden’s approval rating nationwide at just 30 percent.
In 2020, Democrats wanted Biden to be more visible and prominent with their slates of candidates. Now, hoping the fight over abortion will boost their chances in November by energizing their base, Democrats, at least in the Delaware Valley, won’t say if they will appear with the president.
Biden has endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and pitched his candidacy in Philadelphia to an AFL-CIO convention. Still, Fetterman has not said whether he would welcome a chance to campaign with the president.