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Updated 10:25 a.m.
Six weeks out from the April primary, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is ramping up his Pennsylvania presence to the tune of five new offices and dozens of paid staffers.
The expansion comes during the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., where even candidates and their aides are trying to “socially distance” themselves from voters, despite their best political instincts.
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaign is closing its Philadelphia-based headquarters to the public to prevent any potential spread of coronavirus. Biden’s staff have been directed to work from home, and only small-scale events will continue.
Meanwhile, in an effort to make up a 154 delegate deficiency, the Sanders campaign is opening five offices on Friday all across Biden’s home state.
The offices, run by 20 staffers, will be in:
The Vermont senator’s Philly presence will run out of a new office at 52nd and Cedar. The campaign landed on West Philly, per Sanders’ new Pennsylvania State Director Brooke Adams, because that’s where most of Philadelphia’s volunteers were already located.
The Sanders campaign was scheduled to canvas from the new Philadelphia office this weekend, but has canceled the outreach due to concerns of COVID-19.
“We’ve got 47 days until the Pennsylvania primary,” Adams told Billy Penn. “We’re going to be building out a program here that’s going to have a focus on reaching as many voters as we possibly can.”
Stacked up to other campaigns, Sanders now has the most robust Pennsylvania presence by far.
Biden’s now-private campaign headquarters are stationed in Philadelphia — but that’s his only office in the state. The Center City office employs more than 100 staffers handling Biden’s national operation. A Biden spokesperson could not say how many of them work on Pennsylvania-specific outreach.
Recent polls from this month show Biden taking a commanding lead over Sanders among likely Democratic voters in Pa.
With the exception of a small handful of counties that swung blue, President Donald Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 with a middle-of-the-state stronghold.
This time around, the incumbent Republican announced he would open offices in majority Black neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — but the campaign hasn’t opened them yet, a spokesperson confirmed.
The campaign is instead working out of state and local Republican party offices ahead of the April 28 election.