September 16, 2020


As of Tuesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by 4.3 points in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. RealClearPolitics

Both sides call on Pennsylvania to update its mail-in voting procedures:

“The legislature in key battleground Pennsylvania — where the number of mail-in ballots jumped by 18 times in its primary this year, relative to four years before — is advancing a bill that would allow officials to begin conducting the initial ‘pre-canvassing’ [of absentee ballots] three days before Nov. 3. This is encouraging not only because the change might reduce the delay in a crucial swing state but also because Republicans control Pennsylvania’s legislature. Maybe, unlike so many other voting issues, this one does not have to be a partisan question. In fact, states should go one further and allow officials to tabulate absentee votes, not just to sort and verify mail-in ballots, in advance…

“A smoother election night and post-election period would be more than a mere convenience. It would promote confidence in democracy and limit Mr. Trump’s opportunity to call into question the nation’s key institutions. It is worth some trouble.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Pennsylvania has already suffered one interminable mail-vote delay in 2020, and a repeat in November could draw the entire country into a legal brawl, while putting the result of the presidential election into serious doubt. How about heading off this too-predictable debacle before it happens?…

“[Democratic Governor Tom] Wolf plans to veto the [current] bill ‘for a multitude of reasons,’ his spokeswoman says. One objection is that it ‘seeks to eliminate the use of drop boxes.’ True enough, although it would also authorize Pennsylvanians to drop off voted mail ballots at their polling places. Mr. Wolf wants a longer period of pre-processing for mail votes: three weeks, not three days. The tragedy would be for Republicans to pass a bill, Mr. Wolf to veto it, and Pennsylvania to barrel toward a foreseeable crash… on present trend, in a close presidential race, we are headed toward a vote-counting mess in which both sides claim victory.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Both sides also highlight the importance of the rural vote in Pennsylvania:

“Cambria was one of 10 counties — part rural, part post-industrial, like Washington, Luzerne, and Erie counties — that helped Trump eke out a victory in Pennsylvania, the first GOP candidate to win the Keystone State since 1988. Republican-supporting voters turned out about 9% to 10% higher for Trump than they did for Romney, numbers that offset the larger Democrat-dominated populations of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg…

“Joe Biden needs to cut in and win back some of this rural vote to win the state, while Trump needs them to hold not just their enthusiastic numbers from 2016 but to push for 1% more. Whoever does win, the story cannot just be about the suburban voters and their needs being met. Rural voters will still be here, and it is hard to imagine that they will ever let both political parties' establishments forget them again.”
Salena Zito, Washington Examiner

“Pennsylvania has 67 counties. Mr. Trump ran up the score in all of the least populated ones. Even tiny Cameron County, the state’s smallest, contributed 423 more votes to the Republican margin than it had in 2012… The totals in any one of them may seem small, but in the aggregate, they gave Mr. Trump a margin of victory at least 150,000 votes bigger than Mr. Romney had run up four years earlier. That was enough for Mr. Trump to win Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes by a razor-thin 48.58 percent to 47.85 percent…

“‘I’ve heard people lay the blame on the African-American community not supporting Hillary strongly enough, but I don’t buy it,’ Terry Noble, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s rural caucus, told me. ‘Rural Pennsylvania went crazy for Trump. They literally came out of the hills.’… The rural vote accounts for roughly 20 percent of the state’s total, by some estimates… if the election is close again, rural voters — not just in Pennsylvania but in other battleground states — may decide its outcome.”
Michael Sokolove, New York Times

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Going into 2016, Pennsylvania had voted for the Democrat in six straight presidential elections. More impressively, Pennsylvania had been more Democratic-leaning than the national popular vote in every presidential election since 1952. But both streaks were snapped in 2016, when Trump carried Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points…

“Biden currently leads the FiveThirtyEight polling average in Pennsylvania by 4.9 points. Adjusting for demographics and the possibility of change over the next two months, our forecast projects that the Democrat will ultimately carry the Keystone State by 4.6 points. However, both numbers are closer than Biden’s lead nationally, implying that if the overall race tightens, Biden could fall victim to the same trends that made Pennsylvania so inhospitable for Clinton in 2016. In other words, it’s no coincidence that Biden’s 75 in 100 chance of winning Pennsylvania is nearly identical to his chance of winning the election: As goes Pennsylvania, so goes the Electoral College.”
Nathaniel Rakich, FiveThirtyEight

The suburbs have been trending away from Republicans since Trump was elected. In 2016, Trump won the suburban vote 49 percent to 45 percent. By 2018, Democrats split the suburbs with Republicans 49 to 49 percent. Now, The Post reports the suburban vote is a major weak point for Trump… 59 percent of suburban voters in Pennsylvania disapprove of Trump’s performance with only 38 percent approving; when asked about their voting preference, suburban Pennsylvanians pick Biden by a nearly identical margin (58 to 39 percent)…

“Bloomberg reported last year that ‘today’s suburbs no longer look much like the lily-white places portrayed on 1950s and 1960s sitcoms. Whites comprised less than ten percent of growth of the suburban population in America’s 100 largest metros between the years 2000 and 2010.’ In short, when Trump says Biden ‘threatens’ to destroy the suburbs by bringing in ‘low-income housing’ — meaning making them less White — he is decades late.”
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

Some argue that “one of the biggest threats to defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming election is a Democratic enthusiasm gap… [Democrats] celebrate efforts to policy-pander to affluent conservatives, but scoff at the notion of having to do any work to secure support from disaffected lower-income Americans who might consider sitting the election out or voting third party…

“As an election strategy, this attitude presumes that Chuck Schumer was right in 2016 when he insisted that ‘for every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.’ Of course, that theory has been electorally shellacked for a decade

“And yet these Democratic elites adhere to it — and vote shame anyone who questions it — not because it has been successful and is the best strategy to win back Congress, expand health care, or save the planet from climate change. They cling to the hypothesis because it at least provides a rationale — however absurd — to continue running campaigns whose number-one directive is comforting the donor class.”
David Sirota, Jacobin Magazine

From the Right

“Want to see what happens when one side has a GOTV organization and the other just runs ads on television? It might not show up in opinion polling, but when it comes to new voter registrations, Republicans have taken a big lead in Pennsylvania, Politico reports today. That effort has shaved off nearly 175,000 off of the Democrats’ voter-registration advantage since 2016 — when they lost the Keystone State anyway…

“Hillary Clinton got four years of grief for not showing up in Wisconsin. Will Democrats in general get the same treatment for their poor performance in Pennsylvania on voter registrations? It’s not as though the Keystone State had reached saturation level for Democrats; as Politico’s Holly Otterbein points out, they only made up 49% of the state’s electorate, running eleven points ahead of the GOP in 2016. That’s down to eight points now, 47/39, in a state that routinely elects Republican legislative majorities and occasionally GOP statewide officers as well.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Pennsylvania is becoming ground zero of the 2020 election. Commentators tend to forget that Mr. Trump in 2016 won 304 electoral votes, 34 more than a majority. He can afford to lose a Michigan or Wisconsin. But he has few paths to the White House without the Keystone State…

“Media types continue to predict unprecedented Democratic turnout, and maybe it will materialize. Yet Mr. Biden continues to lag Mr. Trump in enthusiasm by double digits—a result unprecedented at this point in a modern presidential election. If even a few of those college kids and African-American voters stay home, Democrats have a problem…

“[The] Trump coalition is a bit here, a bit there. It isn’t the usual GOP three-legged stool, and it isn’t robust enough to deliver a knockout victory. Pennsylvania is going to be tight (and potentially a litigation nightmare). But for the purposes of Nov. 3, the only question is whether this strategy—which is being replicated in different guises in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin—can eke out a lead at the finish line. Those claiming Mr. Biden has this in the bag may be repeating the mistakes of 2016.”
Kimberly Strassel, Wall Street Journal

Regarding the accuracy of polling data, “Most pollsters attributed the misses [in 2016] to the failure to weight by education, and when one brings up the errors from 2016 with respect to the 2020 election, the answer typically is ‘pollsters now weight by education, so they’ve fixed it.’ But have they? We actually have a pretty nice sample from 2018 to draw upon. If pollsters have really figured out where they went wrong in key states in 2016, we should see a marked improvement over 2016 and 2014…

“Overall it isn’t clear that the pollsters have really fixed the problem at all. While the bias toward Democrats was smaller in 2018 than in 2016, the bias overall was similar to what we saw in 2014, especially in the Midwest. If people remember, the polls in 2018 suggested that we should today have Democratic governors in Ohio, Iowa and Florida, and new Democratic senators in Indiana, Missouri and Florida. Obviously this did not come to pass. Moreover, almost all of the errors pointed the same way… pollsters have consistently underestimated Republican strength.”
Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.