Campaigns & Elections

President’s latest Philly visit focuses on Black voter engagement

Wednesday’s visit to Philly is President Joe Biden’s seventh trip to Pennsylvania this year

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris take the stage at a campaign rally at Girard College in Philadelphia.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris take the stage at a campaign rally at Girard College in Philadelphia. Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

President Joe Biden made his latest campaign stop in Philadelphia on Wednesday, this time renewing his pitch to Black voters who were critical to his 2020 election win. 

In his seventh trip to the commonwealth this year, Biden spoke to a large crowd of students and community members at Girard College in Philadelphia, an independent boarding school with a predominantly Black student body. The Black Voters for Biden-Harris campaign kicked off Wednesday with an eight-figure investment aimed at this key demographic in battleground states across the country. 

Biden, who made the phrase, “Promises made, promises kept,” a central theme of his remarks, focused on his efforts to address issues impacting Black Americans. 

“All progress, all freedoms and all opportunities are at risk,” Biden said as he described the stakes of the contest between him and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump while also vowing to protect programs like Social Security and Medicare. 

“I’ll be damned if Trump (turns America) into a place of hate,” Biden said, adding that it’s “not hyperbole” to say he is in the Oval Office because of Black voters. “When you vote (in November), we’ll make Trump a loser again.”

Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s significance has been made clear this year, given the number of visits Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have made to the commonwealth this calendar year. 

Wednesday’s visit to Philly is Biden’s seventh trip to Pennsylvania this year and Harris’s third trip to the city this month. 

Biden made three stops in the Keystone State to start the 2024 election cycle, delivering his first campaign speech of the year in Valley Forge in January and making stops in the Lehigh Valley and at Philadelphia’s hunger relief organization Philabundance. 

In March, Biden traveled to Delaware County to host a rally and visit a friend’s home in Rose Valley. And just last month, Biden made stops in Scranton, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where he received an endorsement from members of the Kennedy family. 

Harris, meanwhile, has also visited the commonwealth in recent months, including last week, when she delivered the keynote address at the 2024 Service Employees International Union’s international convention.

In 2020, the Keystone State lived up to its name during the presidential election, with Biden flipping the state after former President Donald Trump took it in 2016. Election results in 2020 – despite Trump’s baseless fraud claims – showed Biden with a 50-48 vote split statewide. In Philadelphia, Biden won by an 81-18 margin. The city’s voter turnout that year was the highest since 1984: Roughly 750,000 of Philadelphia’s 1.1 million registered voters casting a ballot. Biden also received about 20,000 more Philadelphia votes in 2020 than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. 

The Biden campaign noted that under his administration, Black wealth has increased by 60% since the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more Black Americans with health care coverage than ever before, and billions of dollars in student loan debt – which disproportionately impact Black borrowers – have been forgiven.

As Biden touts his legislative achievements, Republican critics claim he and local Democrats haven’t done enough to combat crime and gun violence. U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, a Republican representing the 9th congressional district in Northeastern Pennsylvania, was seen with pro-Trump protestors outside of Biden’s speech Wednesday. 

In an interview with City & State, Meuser referenced his well-documented antipathy toward Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner's job performance and said the Biden-Harris administration has failed to raise crime issues in cities like Philadelphia. 

“At least be upset about the current state of affairs, because public safety is an issue here in Philadelphia,” Meuser said Wednesday, referencing the shooting death of Temple University police officer Chris Fitzgerald. “We need to enforce the gun laws that exist…If we had prosecuted illegal gun possession charges…(he) could still be alive today.”

Biden’s foreign policy stances, specifically his actions related to the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, have become a talking point among progressives and other Democrats who have attempted to sway the president’s support for Israel. The statewide “uncommitted” campaign that took place during last month’s primary election gave a glimpse of a Biden-wary voter segment, with about 10% of Democratic voters – nearly 15,000 – in Philadelphia casting write-in votes instead of nominating Biden. 

Philadelphia City Councilmember Nicolas O’Rourke, one of two Working Families Party members on City Council, said voters must unite around Biden and be able to air grievances against the sitting president at the same time. 

“I think it’s fair to say I’m a ‘Never Trumper’ – but to that end, in order for us to see a reelection for President Biden, we need to see some substantive movement on many issues folks are concerned about,” O’Rourke, a registered Independent who wore a Palestinian flag pin, told City & State Wednesday. “As someone who doesn’t want to see a second Trump term, it’s incumbent upon the president to heed the calls of the people and continue to do the good things that are being done. There must be a meaningful response to the constant, loud cries to see a cessation of violence.” 

Biden remained optimistic amid the criticism, telling voters Wednesday to spread the word of confidence. 

Following his closing remarks, Biden returned to the podium to ask voters to share his optimism, harkening back to his family’s words of wisdom.

“Every time I would walk out of my grandfather’s house up in Scranton he would yell ‘Joey, keep the faith.’ And my grandmother would go, ‘No, Joey, spread it.’ Go spread the faith.”