A Bernie Sanders Pittsburg rally scheduled for Thursday is another sign that the Pennsylvania primary is growing in importance for the Democratic presidential candidates.
Although both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush had previously visited Pittsburgh for private events, Bernie’s is the first public rally of the election held in the city, reported Pittsburgh Business Times. Sanders will speak at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall C. Doors open at 7:30 a.m.
Even though the Pennsylvania primary isn’t until April 24, Bernie and Clinton appear to be fixing their focus on the state early. That should be no surprise as it is one of the biggest prizes of the entire Democratic primary. A massive 210 delegates — the fifth highest of the entire race — will be up for grabs. Mobilizing in major population centers, like Pittsburgh, could be essential to the Sanders campaign to seize a respectable portion of these delegates.
From early polling, Bernie will need all the help he can get from rallies in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. As has been the case for much of the East Coast, Sanders is trailing Hillary by a significant margin in Pennsylvania. Two polls released in March show her with a formidable 25-plus point advantage.
The most recent numbers, from Franklin & Marshall, show her with 53 percent of the vote compared to 28 percent for Bernie. This data also showed that the Republican frontrunners are extremely unpopular among Pennsylvanians, indicating the state will almost assuredly go blue in November — even more motivation for the Sanders campaign to rally in Pittsburgh this Thursday. Nearly 4 million Democrats are registered to vote in the state, despite a few being lost to the Republican side in order to pledge their support for Donald Trump, reported CBS News.
Although from a month earlier and with a smaller sample size, another survey from Harper Polling showed Clinton with 57 percent of the vote compared to 27 percent for Bernie. If this data is accurate, it will take a noticeable amount of rallying in Pittsburgh and beyond to capture enough of these delegates for Sanders to have a strong showing in Pennsylvania. Even after wins in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii over the weekend, Bernie still trails Hillary by more than 200 pledged delegates, according to The Green Papers.
Furthermore, Clinton has already snagged the support of 18 of the state’s 21 super delegates — people not as easily influenced by Sanders’ Pittsburgh rally. The unpredictable voters have been extremely contentious in the 2016 Democratic race, with many Bernie supporters saying that their sway has been used to deflate hope in his campaign. Still, these delegates are far from locked-in and may withdraw their unpledged endorsement of Hillary if Sanders gains enough momentum.
With nearly three months of primaries remaining, Bernie and Hillary Clinton appear to be holding out until the bitter end to see which one will be victorious in the Democratic primary. Unlike the Republican race, every contest for Democrats proportionally allocates delegates. This balancing allows presidential hopefuls, Sanders and Hillary, to stay neck-and-neck up until the convention at the end of July, which will be held in Pittsburgh’s fellow Pennsylvania city, Philadelphia.
Bernie Sanders’ Pittsburgh rally is just one of many maneuvers that the campaign has made to establish itself in Pennsylvania. Both he and Hillary Clinton have set up campaign offices in Pittsburgh, Scranton and the capital, Harrisburg.
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