Campaigns & Elections

Kennedy family members endorse President Joe Biden in Philadelphia

Biden stopped in Philly Thursday on the third leg of Pennsylvania trip

President Joe Biden speaks to an energetic crowd at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center in North Philadelphia.

President Joe Biden speaks to an energetic crowd at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center in North Philadelphia. Harrison Cann

On the third leg of his campaign trip through the commonwealth, President Joe Biden received endorsements from members of the Kennedy family before speaking to an energetic crowd at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center in North Philadelphia, where the president gave brief remarks and laid out his vision for the country. 

“The 2024 election is about two fundamentally different visions for America,” Biden said Thursday. “Donald Trump’s vision is one of anger, hate, revenge and retribution.” 

“I was taught…the worst sin of all was the abuse of power,” Biden said. “I have a very different view of America (than Trump) – one of hope and optimism, like I hope all of you do. Optimism that Bobby Kennedy embodied.”  

Biden touched on several familiar themes during his 10-minute speech, touting his economic policies, and vowing to protect voting and reproductive rights and bring the country together rather than create more division. 

Biden said the country is “obligated to leave no one behind” and to “give hate no safe harbor,” adding that the United States has proven its ability to “come out of a crisis even stronger” than it was beforehand. 

The Kennedy stamp of approval

Several members of the Kennedy family, including Kerry Kennedy and Joe Kennedy III,  joined Biden Thursday, pledging their support for the president. 

Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, delivered the endorsement to Biden on stage Thursday, saying Trump is “attacking the most basic rights and freedoms that are at the core of who we are as Americans.”

Trump “is the most anti-democratic president in American history,” Kennedy said, noting that most of her siblings, with the notable exception of the third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., are backing Biden. “I can only imagine how (Trump’s) outrageous lies and behavior would have horrified my father.”

RFK Jr., a longtime environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine activist who launched his independent campaign for the presidency in Philadelphia in October, consistently polls around 7% or 9% in statewide surveys.

Plenty of Pennsylvania politicians were also in attendance, including Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, Bob Brady, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, and several state legislators. 

State Rep. Tarik Khan, who represents part of Philadelphia in the 194th legislative district, said Biden – and Democrats in general – need to do a better job of touting their policy accomplishments. 

“One of the things (Democrats) don’t do well is, we don’t talk about our achievements,” Khan told City & State, adding that Biden “has done so much for the economy, for students, for health care access, and I think the important thing now is selling what he’s done.” 

Pro-Palestine protests

Not everyone was in attendance to cheer on the president, however. More than three hours before Biden made his remarks, protesters outside the event were calling out Biden for the country’s involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict and the general failure to secure a ceasefire. 

Dozens of protesters stood outside the rec center Thursday with signs saying “Let Gaza Live” and chanting “Genocide Joe has to go.” 

During the primary season, efforts have been ongoing to protest Biden as the Democratic presidential nominee. Thousands of voters have opted for the “uncommitted” or a similar option on the primary ballot instead of voting for the president. Activists in Pennsylvania hope to cast tens of thousands of “uncommitted” votes next week, in a state Biden won in 2020 by just 80,555 votes. 

Commonwealth campaign

The Philadelphia visit Thursday was part of a three-day swing through Pennsylvania this week, including a trip to his hometown of Scranton on Tuesday and a stop in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. 

Throughout his campaign stops – which also fall the week before the commonwealth’s primary election – Biden has sought to win over working-class voters, vowing to improve tax policies and protect Medicare and Social Security, issues he claims are on the line in November.  

“He’s coming for your money, your health care and Social Security,” Biden said of Trump. “And we’re not gonna let it happen.” 

In the Electric City, Biden highlighted his upbringing – when he spent the first 10 years of his life in Scranton – painting the 2024 presidential election as a choice between “Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values.” 

Out west in the Steel City, Biden touted trade policies and spoke to the proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel by Japan’s Nippon Steel. Biden, who said last month he opposed the deal, told steelworkers on Wednesday that U.S. Steel “has been an iconic American company for more than a century and it should remain totally American.”

After pledging to block the acquisition, Biden announced he would push for higher tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum to help shield American manufacturing from what he said are unfair trade practices overseas. 

While Biden is campaigning in Pennsylvania, Trump has been in a New York City courtroom facing criminal charges of falsifying business records to cover up payments made in 2016 after an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump is the first former U.S. president to stand trial in criminal proceedings. 

Trump also recently stopped in the Keystone State, attending a Bucks County fundraiser last Saturday.