EXCLUSIVE: In new ad, Biden makes pitch to Pa.’s Trump Country voters | Thursday Morning Coffee

(Screen Capture via Joe Biden campaign)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It’s been said that football is the moral equivalent of war — with, likely, electoral politics finishing a close second.

So perhaps it’s only appropriate that a new ad from Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign throws both into the blender to make broad points about leadership. And if you can find a voter from a swing part of the swingiest of states to deliver that message, then all the better.

The new Biden spot, “Coach,” features Denny, a school teacher and winery owner from New Castle, Lawrence County, reflecting on the centrality of sports and football in his young life, and his father’s time as a football coach. The campaign did not release his last name.

The ad will start running on YouTube statewide, this morning, as part of a national $280 million digital and television campaign, focused on the Pittsburgh, Erie, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Harrisburg markets, the Capital-Star has learned.

First up, a look at the ad — and the pitch.

“My Dad’s coached football his whole life,” Denny says, speaking to the camera. “I learned a lot from my Dad about the way you should be doing things. That now you’re trying to impart that to kids, too. Having good values and morals is probably the best thing.”

(Screen Capture via Biden Campaign)

The ad further sketches out the requirements for leadership:

“A strong leader is someone who says ‘I got this, I’ll take care of it,” Denny continues. “I don’t express my political views a lot, but that’s not who we have representing us in politics. I don’t think [President Donald] Trump is someone who wants to take ownership of anything. It’s a blame-game. And it’s been messed up the whole way.”

As the screen dissolves to a shot of Biden taking a selfie with a supporter, Denny continues:

“I think a leader is someone who is going to be more honest and more transparent, and more up front, and not be so divisive all the time” he said, as he ends with a simple declaration: “Joe Biden can do that.”

(Screen Capture via Joe Biden campaign)

And now a bit of analysis:

It can’t be a coincidence that the Biden camp is playing to the virtues of football at a time when that beloved Friday night tradition is at its most endangered. For a while there, it looked like Pennsylvania might not even have a fall sports season when Gov. Tom Wolf recommended that interscholastic athletics statewide be put off until 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which sanctions high school sports, ultimately decided to proceed with the fall season. And just this week, a federal court judge in Pittsburgh struck down Wolf’s edict limiting public gatherings of more than 250 people, opening the door for crowds at high school football games.

On Wednesday. the Democratic governor said he hoped to deliver guidance to schools within the next few days on how to safely proceed while the administration appeals that decision. It came the same day that the Big 10, bowing to pressure from Trump, among others, announced that it would proceed with an abbreviated college football season.

Without saying so, the ad draws a contrast between Trump’s management of the pandemic, which has resulted in millions of infections and 196,000 deaths nationwide. Biden on Wednesday called Trump’s response to the pandemic “utterly disqualifying,” and laid out his own plan to deal with the illness.

(Screen Capture via Joe Biden Campaign)

The ad is also a direct bid for Democratic support in a part of Pennsylvania that has seen a defection to Trump and Republicans over the last several years.

New Castle, the county seat of Lawrence County, is 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, and just 18 miles from Youngstown, Ohio. The community has seen its economy reorient around service sector jobs, with healthcaresocial assistance, utilities, transportation and warehouses standing out as the largest employers.

Trump carried Lawrence County in 2016, trouncing Hillary Clinton 61-34 percent, as the counties northwest and southwest of Pittsburgh shed their last vestiges of Democratic blue to become Republican red.

Thus, picking a voter from this Trumpian stronghold to pitch Biden is a savvy plea for Democrats who crossed over four years ago to come back home in 2020.

Whether it works is another matter. In a season that saw Republican voter registration gains in the wake of the June 2 primary, Lawrence County charted strong GOP growth, picking up 419 new voters, an analysis by the Capital-Star’s Nick Field concluded.

“The southwest remains the GOP’s most fruitful area, as ancestral Appalachian Democrats are taking the plunge and changing their partisan registration,” Field wrote. “While most of these voters have been supporting Republican candidates for years, their sheer volume remains imposing.

In a statement, Biden’s campaign said it was “proud to feature real, everyday working Pennsylvanians like Denny and his family.

“These are the exact same working families that Joe Biden got in this fight for and the same families he’s going to champion in the White House. We want folks in western Pennsylvania and across the Commonwealth to hear from their own neighbors who know that Joe Biden is the man for this moment: a President who will unite this country and help us build back better,” Brendan McPhillips, the campaign’s Pennsylvania state director, said in a statement released to the Capital-Star.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Tours of the state Capitol have been suspended among a burst of COVID-19 cases in the state Senate, Elizabeth Hardison reports.

Donald Trump Jr. attacked Joe BidenHunter Biden, and the media during a campaign stop in suburban Harrisburg on Wednesday, your humble newsletter author reports.

State gambling regulators reported $311 million in revenue in August from gaming and fantasy sports, netting $128 million in tax revenue, your humble newsletter author also reports.

White protesters disrupted classes at Cheyney University on Tuesday, shouting racial slurs, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report. And the head of Philadelphia’s African American Museum is stepping down after eight years on the job, the Tribune also reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, the Legislature’s silence on a minimum wage hike, when so many are in need, speaks volumes, the Rev. Yvette Davis, of the POWER Interfaith Network, writes. And a trio of Central Pa. veterans say U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, himself a vet, has put loyalty to President Donald Trump ahead of American service members and vets.

Elsewhere.
University of Pittsburgh
 researchers are crediting Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions for saving thousands of lives, the Inquirer reports.
The United Steelworkers union is lighting up Pittsburgh landmarks with a pro-Biden/Harris message without permission, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive wonders whether the return of Big 10 football will help President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania.
The 911 call in a fatal police shooting in Lancaster won’t be released until the investigation there is completeLancasterOnline reports.
The Citizens-Voice takes you to the scene of the CNN town hall with Joe Biden in NEPA tonight.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

Philadelphia is offering up to $1,500 in additional assistance to renters impacted by the pandemic, WHYY-FM reports.
Penn State’s total COVID-19 cases have topped 1,100 infections. University officials say key metrics remain ‘fairly stable,’ WPSU-FM reports. But, by all means, bring on football.
A new ad from U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright’s, D-8th District, campaign hits GOP challenger Jim Bognet on healthcare policy, PoliticsPA reports.
Stateline.org looks at the growing momentum for Universal Basic Income.
FiveThirtyEight explains why Pennsylvania could well end up determining the election.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m. for an unusual Thursday session.
10:30 a.m, Capitol Steps: Rural Bill of Rights event
12:30 p.m., Capitol Steps: ‘Caregivers for Compromise’ event

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Joe Pertarca
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Marci Mustello
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Chris Quinn
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Frank Burns
8 a..m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Brandon Markosek
9 a.m.: 
Golf outing for Sen. Wayne Langerholc
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Sen. David Argall
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly ridiculous $16,000. The top ask at the Langerholc event is $7,500, or more than enough to cover Joe Scarnati’s photocopying fees.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to ex-Wolf spokesman-turned-leftist agitator J.J. Abbott; to Philadelphia Inquirer Washington Reporter Jonathan Tamari, and reader Bridget Lafferty, all of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, friends.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a new one from Disclosure to get your Thursday morning rolling. From the recently released ‘Energy‘ LP, it’s ‘Get Close.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
NHL.com 
previews tonight’s New York Islanders/Tampa Bay Lightning game. The pressure is on the Isles in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

And now you’re up to date.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press