Why Democrats Keep Visiting Philly to Stump for Hillary Clinton

Pennsylvania is important to the election — and getting a big turnout in Philadelphia is vital to the Clinton campaign's chances at victory.

Joe Biden; Barack Obama; Michelle Obama

Photos: Barack Obama by HughE Dillon; Joe Biden and Michelle Obama by Dan McQuade

Tim Kaine debates Mike Pence tonight in the campaign’s lone vice presidential debate. Even though it won’t reach viewership levels of the first presidential debate, this will be the night where Kaine and Pence receive the most attention they’ll get during the campaign.

On Wednesday, Kaine will come to Philadelphia to campaign. He joins a long list of Hillary Clinton surrogates who have stumped for the Democratic presidential candidate in Philadelphia. President Obama was at Eakins Oval on September 13th, shouting out Carson Wentz. Joe Biden appeared at Drexel the day after the first presidential debate. A day later, Michelle Obama spoke at La Salle. Even Elizabeth Banks stumped for Hillary Clinton at Penn. And, of course, Clinton herself explicitly stumped for millennial votes at Temple last month. She’s appearing in Haverford today, too.

Kaine will speak at the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 19 Hall on Columbus Boulevard tomorrow at 6 p.m. So why all the attention paid to Philly?

In some ways it’s very simple. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes. As Penn political science associate professor Marc Meredith tells Philadelphia magazine, pretty much every list of important swing states this election includes Pennsylvania. A Democrat has won Pennsylvania every election since Bill Clinton ended a three-election streak of GOP wins, in 1992.

And the way for Democrats to win the election is to get out the vote in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. (Kaine will be in Pittsburgh before coming to Philadelphia later in the day.) Democrats have a 7-to-1 edge in Philadelphia, and the once-Republican suburbs have been trending Democratic. The issue this year is with getting the vote out.

“One issue that Clinton faces is an enthusiasm gap for her candidacy among Democrats,” Meredith says. “Democrats aren’t as enthused as they have been in the past. Part of the strategy is to bring out more enthusiasm, particularly among young Democrats, as a way to get them to vote — not necessarily because they’re enthusiastic about Clinton, but because they’re excited about the democratic party more broadly.”

This is a good reason for all the visits to Philadelphia — the more people the Clinton campaign can turn out here, the greater their chances of winning the state. There are seven Clinton campaign offices in Philadelphia, and nearly two dozen in Philadelphia and the suburbs combined. The Republican National Committee admitted it’s going to be a “challenge” to win the state. But Philadelphia Republican Party head Joe DeFelice says he’s seeing enthusiasm for Trump in the area.

“My straw poll at my La Salle class was 11-7 in favor of Hillary,” he says. “When Michelle Obama came, I asked the same question, is anyone now voting for Hillary — it did not change one single mind at that school. When I was down at Widener, it was 6 to 6 — Trump tied with Hillary. St. Hubert’s did a straw poll — Trump won that straw poll 50-41. That’s pretty telling for an all-girls high school in lower Northeast Philadelphia.”

Two polls, released today, show some of that Trump enthusiasm. While a Franklin & Marshall poll finds Clinton ahead among likely Pennsylvania voters, 47 percent to 38 percent, her 67-22 lead in Philadelphia isn’t as lopsided as you’d expect: Local lawyer/wonk Adam Bonin says wrote that 22 percent would be higher than any Republican has gotten in the city in decades. And a Monmouth poll out today gives Clinton lead in Philly and its suburbs at 62-30 percent, and up 10 points overall in the state.

The Clinton campaign is nonetheless confident. In a campaign memo obtained by Philadelphia magazine that was sent to Pennsylvania staffers on September 19th, 50 days before the election, the campaign told staffers “our campaign is running as though we’re ten points behind, taking absolutely nothing for granted. For months, the coordinated campaign has been organizing both online and on the ground. To mobilize and help elect Hillary Clinton and Democrats at every level, we have coordinated at all levels and in all aspects of the campaign to ensure resources are maximized up and down the ballot.” A win in Pennsylvania won’t guarantee Clinton wins the election, but it will certainly help.

“Our campaign in Pennsylvania is centered on Hillary Clinton’s idea that we are stronger together, with an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” Hillary for Pennsylvania state director Corey Dukes said in a statement to Philadelphia. “Donald Trump’s campaign has said that Pennsylvania is a must-win for him, but instead of widening his appeal, he is doing all he can to repel voters, especially in Southeast Pennsylvania, with his degrading attacks on women, African Americans and Latinos. We are focused on continuing to register tens of thousands of voters and mobilize our supporters to help Clinton win Pennsylvania and to stop Trump from ever getting close to the White House.”

So expect to see quite a few more visits to Philadelphia from Biden, the Obamas and maybe even a celebrity or two before election day.