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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign has begun hiring dozens of staff members in Pennsylvania, an aggressive move in a late primary state where his chief competitors for the Democratic Party's nomination have inroads.
The campaign, which announced the hirings Wednesday, has brought on about 35 staffers in Pennsylvania and has a goal of hiring more than 90 staffers and opening a dozen campaign offices, the campaign's state director, Kevin Kinross, said.
Pennsylvania's primary election is April 28.
Pennsylvania is seen as particularly friendly territory to former Vice President Joe Biden, who has his campaign headquarters in Philadelphia and long political relationships in Pennsylvania after living for decades just across the border in Wilmington, Delaware, as that state's longtime senator.
The hiring is part of Bloomberg's focus on premier general-election battleground states, while Biden and the other candidates spar in early primary states.
“We're running really a general election campaign right now,” Kinross said in an interview. “We're on the ground early. ... Michael Bloomberg feels that Donald Trump is basically running unopposed in the key states that are needed to win the White House in November, so we’re here early, we're building the campaign, we're building the infrastructure and we plan to compete for votes now.”
Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is Bloomberg’s national political chairman, and Bloomberg already has TV commercials running across Pennsylvania.
The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported the hires Wednesday. Bloomberg's campaign opened its first Pennsylvania field office, in Philadelphia, last month.
Trump's stunning victory in Pennsylvania in 2016 helped pave his path to the White House. The state went Republican for the first time since 1988 as part of the Democratic Party's “blue wall” of industrial states that Trump flipped, along with Michigan and Wisconsin.
Elizabeth Warren's campaign last month became the first in the Democratic presidential primary to hire field staff in the state and opened a field office in Philadelphia earlier this month. Warren also has the endorsement of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
The early moves could be important if the nominee remains in doubt past March since Pennsylvania has the fifth-most delegates in the Democratic primary. Democratic strategists in the state recall that top field staff from the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama primary in 2008 began getting hired no earlier than February or March.
Still, Biden has a number of built-in advantages in Pennsylvania.
He spent part of his boyhood growing up in Scranton, and he used Pennsylvania as a backdrop to announce the start of his campaign. Biden has campaigned for many of the state's leading Democratic officeholders, he is a regular at big Labor Day parades in the state and he has the endorsement of most of the state's 10 members of Congress, including Sen. Bob Casey.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made several visits to Pennsylvania last year and built a volunteer network in his first campaign in 2016.
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