Donald Trump's Pa. speech proves Biden right — and amps up the race to November

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD

If there were any doubts as to Pennsylvania’s role as the center of America’s political universe, they were put to rest last week following high-profile addresses from both President Joe Biden and his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

That the nation’s Democratic president and the leader of the Republican Party both selected the Keystone State as the stage for agenda-setting speeches speaks to Pennsylvania’s position as what the New York Times calls “the nation’s center of political gravity and its ultimate battleground.”

That’s not overstating the matter.

Pennsylvania was a key swing state in the past two presidential elections, tipping to Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. And its list of 2022 midterm races includes several that have national implications, among them House races for the 8th and 17th districts and, of course, the battle for outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey’s open seat.

The winner of that increasingly hard-fought contest, between Republican political novice Mehmet Oz and Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, could very well decide the balance of the U.S. Senate for the second half of Biden’s first term in office — and, as a result, his legacy and the nation’s future.

More:Is Dr. Oz done? Republicans still see a path to a comeback against Fetterman

More:Doug Mastriano sues Jan. 6 committee over deposition

More:Editorial: Dr. Oz, go sell your magic beans someplace else

So, it was far from surprising that Biden and Trump would visit the “ultimate battleground” state to deliver their battle cries. And those cries could not have been more strident, more varied or more representative of their parties.

Biden, delivering a national address from outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, issued a full-throated defense of America’s values, Constitution and democracy. And he pointed directly at the threat: Trump and “MAGA Republicans” — both those in office and those who put them there — who continue to spread lies about the outcome of the 20202 election and threaten violence to further their political aims.

“Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election — either they win or they were cheated,” the president declared. “I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost.”

“People who refuse to accept they lost” would be as apt a description as any of the political rally headlined by Trump two nights later in Wilkes-Barre.

It was the former president’s first public appearance since an Aug. 8 FBI raid on his Florida estate uncovered hundreds of classified and top-secret documents improperly removed from the White House before he left office.

If Trump were trying to prove Biden right, he couldn’t have been more effective.

In a nearly two-hour speech filled with gripes and grievances, the once-and-perhaps-future GOP presidential candidate lambasted the Justice Department and FBI as “vicious monsters” who conducted a “shameful raid and break-in of (his) home” and attacked Biden as “vicious, hateful” and “an enemy of the state.”

He repeated lies about the 2020 election being stolen, railed against his two impeachments and slandered Fetterman while only briefly mentioning Oz and Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, whose campaigns were ostensibly the reason for the rally.

No wonder former Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican, called the speech “a major gift” to Democrats.

The time between Labor Day and Election Day is traditionally when many voters begin paying closer attention to candidates and campaigns. That time has come. And it has come to Pennsylvania under a national spotlight.

As the state’s voters assess the candidates in races for governor, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, they will not lack for close-to-home opportunities to hear from those candidates, along with leaders in each party up to and including Biden and Trump.

Pennsylvania is the nation’s premier battleground state and the political battles are raging. Voter must now arm themselves with information and be prepared to weigh in with the only form of ammunition that should ever be used to decide an election: their votes.