For a city of just over 40,000 people, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. will be an unexpected focal point for American and Pennsylvania politics this week.
The county seat of Luzerne County in northeastern PA will welcome the current president of the United States – Joe Biden – on Tuesday and entertain the former president Donald Trump on Saturday.
Biden’s trip is a rescheduled visit that was canceled in July due to his positive test for COVID-19.
He will give remarks at Wilkes University’s Arnaud C. Marts Center on his Safer America Plan to further reduce gun crime and save lives, said Seth Schuster, regional communications director at The White House. He will be joined by Democratic candidate for governor Josh Shapiro and 8th Congressional District Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna). Senate candidate John Fetterman will not be in attendance, claiming a scheduling conflict.
Biden previously visited the Wilkes campus while on the 2016 campaign trail for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“My understanding is that the last time a sitting president came to Wilkes was Richard Nixon,” said Dr. Greg Cant, president of Wilkes University. “50 years ago. We’ve had lots of political figures who have come for a campaign event, but having a sitting president come to our campus. 50 years is a long time.”
“It’s definitely a big deal. Politics are obviously such a huge part of our lives, I feel like it’s important that we know a lot about politics, and having the president come here is definitely a big deal,” explained Chris Bird, a freshman at Wilkes University.
Biden’s native state looms large in the November midterms with competitive House races, a gubernatorial contest and a Senate race in which recent polling gives Democrats hope of winning a GOP Senate seat.
Trump will visit the area on Saturday, hosting a ‘Save America Rally’ at Mohegan Sun Arena beginning at 7 p.m.
The 45th president will be joined by Republican senate candidate Mehmet Oz as well as GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and 8th Congressional District candidate Jim Bognet.
The rally announcement comes amid reports of Republicans questioning the strength of some of the party’s candidates running this year, and as some GOP candidates have struggled to match their Democratic opponents in fund-raising.
Doors will open at 2 p.m. on Saturday for the event with speeches slated to begin two hours later. Trump is scheduled to appear at 7 p.m.