EDITOR’S NOTE: A version of this story ran in September 2020 as part of the award-winning Swing County, Swing State project on lehighvalleylive.com. This post has been updated to reflect Joe Biden’s planned appearance on Wednesday.
Barack Obama and JFK both greeted supporters on Main Street, Bethlehem. Richard Nixon and Donald Trump both landed at LVIA. Jimmy Carter and Dwight Eisenhower are among several to speak at the local colleges. Even hopeful Hubert Humphrey got an obligatory candidate-holding-a-baby campaign photo here.
And on Wednesday, Joe Biden will add to the list of presidents (and presidential candidates) who have visited the Lehigh Valley. His appearance at Mack Trucks will be his first local presidential appearance but the Scranton native has been here a few times before, as a running mate and vice president.
With help from The Express-Times/lehighvalleylive.com archives and some of our digitized photos available through the Easton Area Public Library, we can hop in the photographic time-machine and see scenes of speeches and rallies by candidates, running mates, and contemporary and future presidents in the Lehigh Valley. Starting with …
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (1946)
He wouldn’t become president for another seven years, but Eisenhower, still hailed as a triumphant World War II general, was a notable presence at Lafayette College on New Year’s Day 1946.
The Easton Express – a precursor to The Express-Times and lehighvalleylive.com – reported that 400 people attended the alumni dinner where the future Republican president would advocate for the United States’ role as a leader in maintaining world peace. “It’s no wonder the Eisenhower grin has become a trademark,” The Express reported. “He uses it often. Probably his face aches at the end of a parade day but he still manages to make it look warm and friendly.”
HARRY TRUMAN (1948)
Truman, the incumbent Democrat, was running for re-election when he arrived in the Lehigh Valley by train on Oct. 7, 1948.
His itinerary included stops at Allentown at 1 p.m., Bethlehem at 1:40 p.m. and Easton at 2:15 p.m., sandwiched between visits to Bridgeport, Reading, Elizabeth, Newark and Jersey City.
RICHARD NIXON (1960)
In the waning days of the 1960 election, Nixon and his Republican running mate Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. both made appearances in the Lehigh Valley.
Nixon gave a speech after landing in Allentown at what was then known as ABE Airport. Lodge spoke to a crowd in Downtown Easton.
Just a couple of days later, their opponent made an appearance of his own …
JOHN F. KENNEDY (1960)
On the heels of Nixon and Lodge’s Lehigh Valley rallies, JFK, reaching from the back of a convertible, shook hands with supporters flooding Main Street outside the Hotel Bethlehem, where the Democrat gave remarks.
HUBERT HUMPHREY (1966, 1968)
Humphrey, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1968, visited the Lehigh Valley at least once before in 1966. He returned in August and October of the election year, giving a speech at Moravian College in Bethlehem in the latter trip.
BARRY GOLDWATER (1968)
Goldwater spoke at Lehigh University in Bethlehem four years after he ran as a Republican for president against eventual victor Lyndon B. Johnson.
GERALD FORD (1968)
Ford was still a Republican representative from Michigan when he spoke at Lafayette College in Easton on April 2, 1968. He became president in 1974 following Nixon’s resignation.
Ford later lost his 1976 campaign to …
JIMMY CARTER (1976, 2013)
Carter, a Democrat, landed and spoke at ABE in April 1976, and stumped in Bethlehem.
Carter returned to the Lehigh Valley in 2013 to give a guest lecture about international affairs to an audience of residents and students assembled on the Lafayette College quad.
JERRY BROWN (1992)
The governor of California, Brown made a failed push for the Democratic nomination in ’92. His campaign included an April stop in the Lehigh Valley.
GEORGE W. BUSH AND GEORGE H.W. BUSH (1999, 2000)
Yes, two George Bushes appeared in the Lehigh Valley in the same year.
George W. Bush, Republican governor of Texas, was running for president and stopped for a fundraiser luncheon at the Hanover Township, Northampton County, Holiday Inn on Sept. 5, 2000. (He previously appeared for a fundraiser at the same hotel in June 1999.)
There were at least two protests going on as Bush shook hands and signed autographs outside, and one protester was escorted away by Secret Service agents after approaching the candidate.
Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, stumped for him at Cedar Crest College in Allentown on Oct. 26, 2000. (In 1992, the elder Bush had rallied for a second term at Dieruff High School in Allentown, but we don’t have an archived photo of that visit.)
As George H.W. Bush campaigned for his son, the Lehigh Valley was also visited by their opponent …
AL GORE (2000)
Gore, the vice president and Democratic nominee for president, made a campaign stop at Stanley Avenue Park in Fountain Hill on Oct. 26, 2000, where he spoke to 3,000 people.
Gore returned to the Lehigh Valley two years later for a speech at Northampton Community College in support of Ed O’Brien, a Democrat who led a failed campaign for a U.S. House seat.
PAT BUCHANAN (2000)
About a month before the 2000 presidential election, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan spoke at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center.
BOB DOLE (2000)
He had already run and lost the 1996 presidential race, but former Republican nominee Bob Dole paid a visit to the Lehigh Valley just a few days before the 2000 election. He spoke with veterans at the American Legion Hall in Palmer Township with then-Gov. Tom Ridge.
“We’ve been called the greatest generation,” Dole told the audience of about 100. “And we accept that. But I know this younger generation could be the greatest generation if called upon.”
JOHN KERRY (2004)
The eventual Democratic nominee in the 2004 election, Kerry campaigned in the Lehigh Valley at least twice.
In March of that year, the Massachusetts senator spoke to an overflow audience of several hundred people at Northampton Community College’s Lipkin Theatre. In September, he was at the Allentown Fairgrounds in front of 12,000 folks where he harped on Bush’s record as president, quipping “W stands for wrong.”
Kerry returned to the Lehigh Valley in 2008 to stump for Barack Obama.
BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON (2008, 2010)
Former President Bill Clinton was twice in the Lehigh Valley during the 2008 primaries, stumping for his wife Hillary Clinton as she sought the Democratic nomination.
Bill Clinton’s two appearances were first, one at Muhlenberg College in Allentown that March and the other at Easton Area High School in April. (Bill Clinton returned in 2010 to back Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan in a failed Congressional bid.)
Hillary Clinton appeared on April 20, 2008, just two days before Pennsylvania’s primary. She spoke to more than 1,000 cheering people at Liberty High School in Bethlehem as she laid out her platform.
BARACK OBAMA (2008, 2009)
The eventual Democratic nominee and presidential winner made a Lehigh Valley campaign appearance on March 31, 2008, making his “Road to Change” message to Allentown’s Muhlenberg College.
The second visit was around the time Hillary Clinton was in town. Obama greeted people on Main Street Bethlehem and famously stopped for a pint at the Brew Works. (The brewery’s website quotes the future president: “Now that’s a good beer!”)
As president, Obama returned to the Lehigh Valley in December 2009 to deliver a speech at Lehigh Carbon Community College and visited Allentown Metal Works.
JOHN McCAIN (2008)
Eventual Republican nominee John McCain also saw the Lehigh Valley a few times in 2008. The Arizona senator spoke to medical personnel at Lehigh Valley Hospital’s Cedar Crest campus in Allentown on April 30, 2008.
McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” appeared at Lehigh Valley International Airport that June. And he returned in the homestretch of the campaign Oct. 8 with running mate Sarah Palin, each taking the podium during a rally at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena.
The enthusiastic crowd booed or chanted “Nobama” at every mention of Obama. But during the rally, Lehigh County Republican Committee Chairman William Platt used Obama’s middle name in a way the McCain himself had previously discouraged. Afterward, a campaign spokesman said Platt’s use (“Imagine if you woke up Nov. 5,” Platt said, “and see that Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States.”) was “inappropriate rhetoric” and not condoned.
RALPH NADER (2008)
Nader ran as an independent in the 2008 race, also having run in four prior presidential elections. He spoke to a half-capacity audience at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Allentown on Nov. 2, two days before election day.
JOE BIDEN (2008, 2010, 2012)
The current president has previously addressed the Lehigh Valley at least three times. The first was as Obama’s running mate in October 2008, when the then-Delaware senator and Scranton native led a rally at Muhlenberg College.
As vice president, he praised Bethlehem in an April 2010 speech marking a $17 million expansion at Ben Franklin TechVentures on the Lehigh University campus. “This is already a resurrection,” Biden said during an otherwise low-key visit. “There’s no reason why this city can’t lead in the new age like it did in the past.”
Biden returned in May 2012 to Lafayette College, where he was presented with an 1875 picture of his great-grandfather, Edward Francis Blewitt, who attended the Easton institution.
On Wednesday, he is scheduled to fly into LVIA around noon and deliver remarks about American business at the Mack Trucks plant in Lower Macungie Township.
MITT ROMNEY (2011)
A year before the presidential election, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney was in Allentown holding a news conference outside the shuttered Allentown Metal Works, which was a victim, he said, of incumbent President Obama’s economic policies. Obama had visited the site just two years earlier.
The former Massachusetts governor told the assembled audience, mostly media, that Obama should be focused on the economy, but was wasting his time “playing golf and campaigning ... and blaming.”
MIKE PENCE (2016)
Neither of the presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, made Lehigh Valley campaign appearances in 2016. But the vice-presidential candidates did.
Trump’s Republican running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, gave a speech at Hotel Bethlehem during the Northampton County Republican Party Chairman’s Dinner on Oct. 13, less than a month before election day. “We can’t keep electing the same people with the same bad ideas and expect a different result,” Pence told the audience of about 200.
TIM KAINE (2016)
Clinton’s Democratic running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, made at least two stops here. The first was Aug. 31, when he helped out at the Hispanic center in South Side Bethlehem before a rally at the Hanover Township, Northampton County, community center.
He was back on Oct. 26 to mobilize voters at Muhlenberg College.
BERNIE SANDERS (2019)
Vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took questions for a televised Fox News town hall at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
“Not everyone thought I should come on this show. Your network does not necessarily have a lot of respect in my world,” said Sanders, who made comments about the media in general throughout the night.
The audience was perhaps surprisingly enthusiastic for the liberal candidate, booing and jeering when the hosts asked questions they didn’t like. Crowds of Trump supporters waved banners outside the venue, and the president himself weighed in afterward on Twitter.
DONALD TRUMP (2020)
Trump’s first presidential visit to the Lehigh Valley came in May amid the COVID-19 pandemic when he visited Owens & Minor, a medical supply distribution company in Upper Macungie Township. Banner-waving supporters lined roads from LVIA to the facility, and protesters also staged demonstrations.
In that speech, Trump outlined plans to ensure adequate supplies going forward, and blamed his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for shortcomings.
Trump returned to the Lehigh Valley for a campaign rally on Oct. 26 at HoverTech International in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
KAMALA HARRIS (2020)
Joe Biden didn’t make a Lehigh Valley campaign appearance, but his running mate did.
Kamala Harris, now vice president, made a last-minute stump speech one day before Election Day at Dutch Springs in Lower Nazareth Township. Her speech urged the influential Latino bloc to vote: “They (powerful people) know our power. They know when we vote, things change. They know when we vote we win,” Harris said to the din of car horns and cheers, “So, let’s not let anyone take our power from us. We will not be sidelined. We will not be silenced. We know our power.”
MORE: Everything to know about President Joe Biden in the Lehigh Valley — when, where, traffic and more
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to lehighvalleylive.com.
Steve Novak may be reached at email@example.com.