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All eyes on Pennsylvania—voters here are the key to the presidency

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, just may be the key to victory for Joe Biden…or Donald Trump.

Less than a week before Election Day, Nov. 3, the early votes and mail-in ballots continue to be counted across our 46,000 square miles of commonwealth. Biden and Trump, the current president, know just how important winning Pennsylvania is to winning the presidential election.

As you track the suspenseful presidential election results on Election Night, remember that most states have already been decided. That’s because historically, many states have a population base that leans either Democratic or Republican.

States in the plains and South traditionally vote Republican, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee. Other states are solid Blue states, like the New England states, New York, California, and Illinois.

Thus, Election Night comes down to about 10 “swing” states that could go either way. They include: Arizona, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, and, you guessed it, Pennsylvania.

Besides being the state where the Declaration of Independence was signed, Pennsylvania has an eclectic mixture of hardcore Democrats and Republicans, with the Democrats primarily residing in the big cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the Republicans in central Pa. and the counties surrounding Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County.

In 1980 and 1984, Pennsylvania went to the Republican, Ronald Reagan, who became the two-term president. In 1988, the state stayed Red, going to President George H.W. Bush. But beginning in 1992, Pa. went on a Blue streak, going to two-term Democratic president Bill Clinton, then Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004.

Gore and Kerry lost the elections to George W. Bush. Pennsylvania went to Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, before surprisingly turning Red to Trump’s camp in 2016.

A poll released Oct. 24 from the political website FiveThirtyEight has Biden, the Democratic nominee, with a 52 to 46 percentage lead over Trump. Even a Fox News poll dated Oct. 20 has Biden with a five point lead over Trump. Fox News is known for leaning towards the conservative end of the political spectrum.

Twenty electoral votes are up for grabs in Pennsylvania. Political experts have said that Trump must win Pennsylvania to have a chance of getting the necessary 270 electoral votes for re-election.

As for Biden, he would love to win Pa., but if he loses the state, experts say he can still win states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and take the presidency.

Trump has consistently hammered to his Pa. supporters that Biden will paralyze the manufacturing industry in the state, costing Pennsylvanians thousands of jobs. But Biden has garnered more support among the state’s senior citizens, a category that Trump dominated over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Trump won the state in 2016, but by just 44,000 votes of the six million total votes cast in the state. Trump has little margin for error.

Biden almost exclusively has the state’s African American vote, if history serves correct. In 2016, 10 percent of the total votes cast in Pa. were from African Americans (600,000). And CNN exit polls showed that 92 percent of them voted for Clinton. Black women, in particular, had no love for Trump in 2016 in Pa.; 99 percent of them voted for Clinton, exit polls indicated. There’s no reason to believe Pa.’s Black women haven’t exclusively voted or won’t vote for Biden.

Turning closer to home, is it likely that the counties surrounding Allegheny—Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, Westmoreland, etc.—would turn for the Democrat, Biden? The answer is most likely no, though political experts have their eye on Beaver County as a county that could flip to Blue.

Allegheny County is a shoo-in for the Democrats; the only question is, by how many percentage points will Biden win? In 2016, Clinton won by 16 points, or 108,000 votes. In 2012, Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Allegheny County by a 14 point margin, or 90,000 votes.

Just over 643,000 votes were cast in Allegheny County in the 2016 election. Expect around the same number for the 2020 election. But will Biden get more than the 367,617 votes that went to Clinton in 2016? The larger the win for Biden in Allegheny County, the more it offsets the Republican votes likely to come from the surrounding counties.

Mix that with the heavily-Democratic votes expected in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties that traditionally lean Democratic, and Biden could find himself winning Pennsylvania, with one step closer to the White House.

TRACEY MCCANTS LEWIS was among the many who submitted their mail-in ballots at the Allegheny County Satellite Voting Center at CCAC, Oct. 24. (Photo by Courier photographer Rob Taylor Jr.)