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Biden and Clinton visit Biden's childhood home in Scranton in 2016. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The hometown of Joe Biden and "The Office" is polishing its perennial status as a guidepost for the nation's political mood.

Driving the news: Biden returns to Scranton, Pa., today with a campaign stop just outside the city limits at a metalworking plant, where he'll deliver remarks on a plan to create jobs and "help America build back better."

  • President Trump participated in a Fox News town hall in Scranton in March.
  • Vice President Mike Pence is campaigning elsewhere today in Pennsylvania, underscoring its importance as a battleground state.

Why it matters: Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, but Biden now leads Trump in Real Clear Politics poll averages.

  • Scranton, with its mining and railroad roots, is a microcosm of demographic trends and political anxieties that propelled Trump's 2016 election.
  • The election is a referendum on both men in places like this — on Trump's ability to execute on his promises, and on the durability of Biden's appeal with modern-day white, working-class men.
  • Barack Obama took 63% of the vote in Lackawanna County, where Scranton sits, in both 2008 and 2012. In 2016, Hillary Clinton didn't crack 50% .
  • At the same time, the metropolitan area has faced rapid diversification since 2000 — when it was 96% white — as New York-area immigrants searched for cheaper places to put down roots.
  • It's held on to some socially conservative Catholic roots.

Scranton's internal problems also have attuned voters to messages about corruption and government accountability.

  • Former Mayor Bill Courtright steered the city away from bankruptcy after decades of fiscal mismanagement, but last year he resigned and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges for taking payments from businesses that wanted to work in the city.

Don't forget: This northeastern Pennsylvania city has carried personal significance for those at or near the top of the ticket in six of the last eight White House contests.

  • Though Biden hasn't lived in Scranton since he was a child, it's a huge part of his political identity. He long joked about being Pennsylvania's "third senator." It's also where Hillary Clinton's father was born and buried.
  • Trump campaign spokeswoman Sarah Matthews accused Biden of trying "to masquerade as blue-collar Joe from Scranton."

Between the lines: The national press has long had a fascination with Scranton's presidential implications. It helps that it's just a few hours' drive from the corridors of power in Washington and New York.

  • 2008: RealClearPolitics called it "the new Peoria — ground zero for old-fashioned American values, the psychic heartland."
  • 2012: The New York Times said Scranton was "Hillary country" and posed a liability for Obama's re-election after his 2008 comments about voters who "cling to guns or religion."
  • 2016: The Times theorized that Trump could "invade" Scranton and "make deep inroads in a Democratic stronghold with an anti-free trade, America-first message, which across the Rust Belt has energized the blue-collar voters."

Be smart: Since the pandemic upended the campaign trail, Biden has stayed close to his home bases of Philadelphia and Wilmington, holding mostly virtual events with few and smaller-scale in-person interactions. Venturing out to Scranton takes him a step farther afield without leaving his comfort zone.

Go deeper

Obama to campaign for Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday

Obama and Biden walk through the Crypt of the Capitol. Photo: J. Scott APPLEWHITE/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama is expected to make his first in-person campaign stop for Joe Biden next Wednesday, Oct. 21, in Philadelphia.

The state of play: With 18 days until the election, the former president plans to visit a handful of critical battleground states. Obama is expected to make joint appearances with Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris in the final stretch of the race, the Atlantic reports, and will concentrate on states with early voting.

  • “He’s doing enough for our campaign,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday, leaking plans for the former president's campaign efforts. “He’ll be out on the trail.”

Trump campaign adviser: Battleground state polls matter most in race against Biden

Photo: Axios

Battleground state polls "matter the most" in this election, Trump's campaign adviser Steve Cortes said during an Axios virtual event on Friday, adding that those numbers illustrate a closer race than the national polls show.

Why it matters: Biden's national lead against Trump has widened to double digits, but the former vice president holds a narrower advantage in states needed for an Electoral College victory, such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases — Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  4. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.