The Keystone State has emerged as a virtual must-win for both Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
By HOLLY OTTERBEIN – 10/31/2020 07:00 AM EDT
PHILADELPHIA — The presidential campaign travel schedules confirm it: Until the polls close Tuesday night, Pennsylvania is the center of the political universe.
It’s the biggest brick in the Rust Belt’s “blue wall” that President Donald Trump tore down in 2016 — and that Joe Biden is trying to rebuild — making it a virtual must-win state for both men. The two campaigns and national parties have poured more than $54 million into advertising in Pennsylvania, more than any other state except Florida.
Luzerne and Lackawanna counties are next-door neighbors in northeastern Pennsylvania that did a lot to deliver the state to Trump in 2016.
The president flipped Luzerne, a declining historic coal region, carrying the county by 26,000 votes — about 60 percent of his margin of victory statewide. And while Hillary Clinton won Lackawanna, she only did so by fewer than 4,000 votes, down from nearly 27,000 by Obama in 2012.
Lackawanna, the smaller of the two counties, is home to Scranton, Biden’s birthplace and the key to his middle-class political identity. So it’s no wonder that both Trump and Biden have made the area a priority, with the candidates making a combined total of five visits here this year.
When Biden announced a key plank of his economic recovery plan, he chose to do it from a metalwork plant in Lackawanna County’s Dunmore. Trump went to Scranton for a Fox News town hall in March. He also needled Biden by traveling to Old Forge, a 15-minute drive from Scranton, during the Democratic National Convention. And Trump is headed to Luzerne for a rally on the eve of the election.
“If Biden is elected, all of the security will quickly vanish, control of the border will be ceded to violent cartels and the left-wing crazies who empower them,” he said at the Old Forge rally, returning to the anti-immigration rhetoric he leaned into in 2016, which was popular in this region.
Northeastern Pennsylvania is one of the places where Trump is mining for even more votes than he won in 2016. The Republican National Committee said it has spent $350 million to revamp its national data program and locate pro-Trump voters who didn’t come to the polls four years ago.
A recent Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll found Trump performing better in the northeast than any other part of the state, leading Biden 55-39 here.
“The turnout on Election Day is going to be in favor of Donald Trump and it’s going to come out huger than 2016,” said Justin Behrens, chair of the Luzerne County Republican Party.