Joe Biden has an overall lead of 6 percentage points, averaged by RealClearPolitics polls, and has led Trump in the 12 public polls released since early June.
“Joe Biden – his party is not in power – so by definition he is the candidate for change. It’s a huge advantage, ”said Democratic Senator Bob Casey. “No matter what Hillary Clinton did with her campaign platform, she was running after eight years as a Democratic president. So when you run after eight years in your party, you are not the change candidate. “
Pennsylvania Democrat elected officials, party leaders and strategists have said Biden is ahead due to Trump’s mismanagement of Covid-19 – which is particularly risky for seniors – as well as his unsuccessful campaign promises. required workers to spend a lot on infrastructure and rewrite trade agreements to benefit them. They believe voters love Biden because he is known as someone who can work across the aisle to solve the nation’s problems.
They argued that Biden was also supported by the fact that he was from Scranton and a former senator from Delaware, covered by the Philadelphia Media Network for years. And they said Biden doesn’t anger the GOP or sway voters like Clinton – instead, he’s a moderate white man who rarely makes waves in a state that elected more than his fair share. white politicians milquetoast.
“Hating Joe Biden doesn’t turn up their base and their Fox News viewers like Hillary and Nancy Pelosi and AOC do,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle, who endorsed Biden the day he kicked off his 2020 campaign. may make some assumptions and ask yourself why. Is sex a factor? Is race a factor? I do not know. I have certain suspicions.
Trump’s nickname for Biden, “Sleepy Joe,” closely resembles his nickname Casey during the senator’s 2018 re-election campaign: “Sleeping Bob.” Casey, who beat opponent Lou Barletta by 13 percentage points, said “there is something about this” idea that Pennsylvania voters like obscure politicians. He added that a local columnist “once compared me to oatmeal”.
But for some Democrats, still piqued by Trump’s anger in 2016, it is a political mistake to count Trump.
“I don’t know how what happened in 2016 would have cured any Pennsylvania Democrat of their boast,” said John Fetterman, Democratic Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. “In the end, it’s reminiscent of the trust that developed with Clinton.”
In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes on a path that defied expectations: He won blue-collar, often traditionally Democratic areas in northeastern and northwestern Pennsylvania, leapt into rural areas and performed poorly in moderate Philadelphia suburbs. Overall, he carried suburban voters by 8 points and seniors by 10 points in the state, according to exit polls.
July FOX Poll of Pennsylvania found that Biden edged Trump by 26 points among suburban voters and 7 points among seniors. Other surveys show a tighter race, such as a CNBC / Change Research poll that had Biden leading in the state by 2 points.
Many campaign aides and Trump allies have said the polls – which in 2016 underestimated white voters without a college degree, a voting bloc in which Trump did much better than Mitt Romney – are open again.
“They are completely wrong,” said Barletta, who was one of Trump’s early supporters in Congress. “I told the then-candidate Trump two weeks before the election, ‘Don’t believe the polls in Pennsylvania. They are wrong. “
Some Republicans have said the polls might be correct, especially regarding Trump’s sagging support among suburban voters, but there is still time for Trump to recover in large part because he has always the upper hand on the economy. Trump is leading or even questioning with Biden on the matter.
“I believe it will eventually come down to the economy. Even if you factor in the pandemic, the implications of the pandemic ultimately come down to the economy, ”said Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based GOP strategist. “I have always been optimistic about President Trump’s prospects.”
Some Democratic officials have said they are wary of Trump’s force on the economy. In a bid to consolidate one of his weak spots, Biden has spent the last few months outlining his plans for economic recovery, including reviving the country’s manufacturing industry and increasing federal spending on goods made in the states. -United.
“I think the big challenge for our party continues to have an economic message and I have urged the vice president’s team to do so,” Casey said. “They were already there, but I keep reminding them.
To reduce support for Biden among suburban voters and older voters, Trump’s campaign spent at least $ 4.5 million on deceptive campaign ads across Pennsylvania that claim police will be dissolved by an administration Biden. Biden has repeatedly said he is opposed to the idea.
Representative Dwight Evans, a Democrat from Philadelphia who represents a predominantly black district, said he was worried about the spots, as well as Trump’s attempts to stoke fear of recent civil unrest and crime in the greater large city in the state.
“When he talks about these beautiful suburbs and then says democratic cities don’t work well, he throws codes out the window. It is simply blatant, ”he said. “I won’t deny that this concerns me.”
Ads by Team Trump in Pennsylvania also attacked Biden’s past support for tough crime bills and free trade agreements, strategies he used against Clinton in 2016 to reduce his support among voters. of color and the white working class.
With an eye on the western Pennsylvania natural gas industry, America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, ran spots accusing Biden of wanting to end hydraulic fracturing. Although he supports banning new leases on federal land, Biden has not proposed to ban fracking.
Advertisements from Biden’s campaign and a pro-Biden super PAC in the state have focused on Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus. The pro-Biden American Bridge 21st Century super PAC has also countered spots of Trump accusing Biden of being gentle on China with his own ad accusing Trump in the same way.
Trump’s team believe their ground game in Pennsylvania is a key strength: they’ve been working in the state for months, while Biden’s team have only announced that they have hired a state director in July.
“We are confident about our current situation in the state. We have made an unprecedented effort here on the ground with recruiting staff and offices, ”said Ted Christian, senior advisor to Trump’s Pennsylvania campaign. “We currently have up to 120 employees in the state. We have 29 offices. We made almost 4.4 million contacts with voters. And I can tell you that the energy exists that was there four years ago – and we have better infrastructure than we do.
Biden’s campaign declined to share the number of employees it has hired in the state. Sinceré Harris, Biden’s senior campaign advisor in Pennsylvania, said the state party had a successful ground game in place here before Biden’s campaign set up operations so they could capitalize on it.
If the former vice president maintains his lead in Pennsylvania despite a later start, it would reflect a bit of the primary, when Biden won states he hadn’t even campaigned in. In comparison, candidates with rumored superior field operations, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have failed.
In a call with reporters last month, Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien touted that Republicans have registered more voters than Democrats in Pennsylvania – about five times as many – since 2016. L The team said it was working to identify new voters or infrequent voters. who support Trump, which he successfully did in 2016.
“The RNC has invested $ 350 million to revamp our data program, and with our faster deployment of field staff, we are able to identify those specific pockets and voters,” Christian said. “And we think there are still votes to be cast. “
Many Democrats in Pennsylvania aren’t buying it – and remain cautiously optimistic.
“In mid-November, after Joe Biden’s victory, after the Democrats have won a substantial number of seats in the House and eventually reclaimed the Senate, I think we will look at the value of a year of voting and come back. on the 2020 race. and we’ll say that in fact, in an incredibly tumultuous year, things haven’t changed much in terms of public opinion, ”Boyle said.