If the president’s most valuable commodity is time, there is no place more politically valuable for the White House this midsummer than Pennsylvania.

A buoyant President Joe Biden returned to the Keystone State on Friday for his 15th visit since taking office, this time for a fundraiser with Vice President Kamala Harris and other leaders to support Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman , gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro and other Pennsylvania Democrats.

The president immediately laid out the stakes, warning that the Nov. 8 midterm elections “are not a referendum, they are a choice, a choice between two completely different visions of America.”

“Democracy is on the ballot this year,” he continued. “Along with your right to choose and your right to privacy. And the strange thing is that they say it out loud.”

The Pennsylvania seat has for months been the most likely chance to get Democrats in the evenly divided Senate, but as the prospects for Democratic incumbents fade elsewhere, a win here becomes an even more urgent insurance policy for the party to hang on to Senate control.

“It’s not hyperbole to say that all eyes are on Pennsylvania,” Biden said.

The White House has turned its attention to the Keystone State – Biden’s birthplace – in the final weeks before the election, and officials are preparing for another visit next week. Harris told the crowd that the party needs to pick up just two more seats to pass key Democratic agendas on abortion rights and voting rights.

“Two more seats,” Harris said, holding up two fingers. “Two more places. One of them is here.”

Friday’s event came three days after Fetterman, recovering from a stroke earlier this year that he said nearly killed him, had shaky results in his only debate against Republican Mehmet Oz. He spoke calmly to the crowd in his signature hoodie and jeans, saying he wanted to give all Americans the same quality health care that saved his life.

“So I may not say everything is perfect at times, but I will always do the right thing if you send me to Washington, D.C.,” he said to applause.

The dinner at the Pennsylvania Convention Center is the state’s largest fundraiser of the year, and party officials said the $1 million raised was the largest ever for the dinner. Attendees included U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, for whom Biden led a virtual fundraiser earlier this week.

In his remarks, Biden focused his attacks on Republicans in Congress, honing in on GOP plans to raise the cost of prescription drugs, cut Medicare and Social Security and pass a nationwide abortion ban. Republicans, if they win, will get rid of the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, energy tax credits and the 15% corporate minimum tax, he warned.

“This is part of their plan. It is reckless, irresponsible, it will make inflation much worse. It’s going to hurt middle-class Americans badly,” the president said.

In the senatorial race, polls show a close fight between Fetterman and Oz. The Democrat’s debate performance shocked some viewers and raised concerns among party leaders. A day later, he gave a smooth 13-minute speech in Pittsburgh as his campaign tried to downplay Tuesday’s performance, saying Fetterman has always been bad at debates and that the closed captioning system he used as an aid was faulty.

Ravi Ballou, a dentist who is the party’s vice chairman in Westmoreland County, western Pennsylvania, heard from a number of friends who were concerned or surprised by Fetterman’s performance. He said he told them that whatever problems Fetterman was left with from the stroke, he would recover and would always be more “relatable” to ordinary people than Oz.

“That’s something he took a big risk on,” Ballou said. “But I also think he got a lot of sympathy from people.”

The White House reiterated this week that Biden — through private conversations with the vice governor — believes Fetterman is physically fit to hold public office, and cited the results of tests by independent medical experts who said his strident speech did not indicate a problem. of his cognitive functions.

“John is Pennsylvania,” Biden said Friday, adding, “John leaves no one behind.”

Biden watched part of the debate Tuesday night and “thought Lt. Gov. John Fetterman did a great job,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said in an email Friday.

Meanwhile, Fetterman’s campaign and national Democratic groups are paying attention elsewhere, pouring money into television ads featuring a clip of Oz saying, “I want women, doctors, local political leaders” to decide the fate of a woman’s right to an abortion. .

The statement, which quickly went viral on social media immediately after the debate, was intended to downplay Oz’s opposition to a federal ban restricting access to abortion in Pennsylvania, even though he is anti-abortion. But Democrats say it’s proof Oz wants politicians in doctor’s offices and exam rooms with women.

Biden brought up the point on Friday, and his surprised look at the comments was met with big laughs from the crowd.

“You heard that right: ‘local political leaders,'” he said. “Look at this: If Republicans gain control of Congress and pass a national abortion ban, I will veto it. But if we elect two more Democrats to the Senate and retain control of the House, we’re going to codify Roe v. Wade in January, so it will be the law of the land.”

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Biden’s approval ratings in Pennsylvania are falling in line with the rest of the country, raising questions about whether his presence bodes well for Democrats in a year when Republicans have the political wind at their backs.

But Biden won big in 2020 in Philadelphia and four suburban districts — including victories over moderate Republicans — and that propelled him to victory over former President Donald Trump.

The Democratic president probably remains popular there.

Democratic political strategist Mark Nevins said voter turnout in Philadelphia and its densely populated suburbs, home to one in three registered Pennsylvania voters, “is a cornerstone for Democrats to win the Senate race and the governor’s race in Pennsylvania, and frankly in some of these suburban races, too.’

Even as there is debate over whether Biden can help the campaign, “the one area that is constant is his ability to help raise funds. Presidents can help here. There’s no debate that they will use the president’s fundraising help in these very expensive races,” said Christopher Borick, a professor of political science and sociology at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Biden also viewed Pennsylvania as something of a home base.

It’s where he spent part of his childhood, where he campaigned countless times for himself and other Democrats, and where Democrats called him “Pennsylvania’s third senator” in his 36 years in the Senate from neighboring Delaware.