If the polls are correct, Democrat Joe Biden is set for a win in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
He'll win Pa., along with the nation, despite a campaign led mostly from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, with few public appearances for a presidential run, and with small crowds or no crowds for both him and his running mate. He will win with a message that, when it's not garbled (fracking, court packing, Hunter's laptop) it's bleak.
“There is going to be a dark winter ahead unless we change our ways,” he angrily warned on coronavirus at a limited-attendee rally at Bucks County Community College in Bristol Township last weekend.
Mask up, hunker down and prep for a second wave of lockdowns.
Biden's strategy is one never seen before. He seeks victory by ignoring what wins contemporary campaigns – a clear message, a focused agenda, optimism.
Still, the data-meisters who massage polling numbers insist that Biden's ridin' to a win. So why doesn't it feel like it? Why doesn't it look like it?
President Trump rollicks across the country, his rallies drawing thousands who wait for hours to see him. They have the feel of a block party or arena-style rock concert. His supporters' Trump Train car parades aren't Astroturfed events, arranged by the Trump campaign. They're organized by his supporters, and all over the country, too. Last week, about half of the 350 cars in a Trump parade detoured from Bensalem and flooded the community college parking lot, crashing Biden's semi-exclusive rally.
The horns and heckling angered Biden, who went off script and angrily called them “chumps.” If you're winning in your “home state” of Pennsylvania, why the anger?
And then there's Lafayette Street in Bristol, a neighborhood of row homes and duplexes with classic small town front porches. Six homes display Trump gear, mostly large “Trump 2020” flags. Bristol is heavily Democrat, blue collar, middle class. About one-third of the vote went to Trump four years ago.
One of those voters (and Trump gear guys) is John Stiltner, 72, a retired heavy equipment road mechanic, who likes and admires Donald J. Trump.
“Trump did a hell of a job with the economy,” he said. “I'm a Democrat and been a Democrat all my life. I'd never change that, either. I vote for the person, not the party. I watch what Trump says on Fox, and then I'll flip to CNN and they take what he said and make it sound the opposite, or make it sound really bad, and I say to myself, what's going on?
“Trump, he's for the people. He don't talk like a politician,” he said. “He gets things done, while everyone else is just talk. I voted the last time for him, and I'm gonna vote again for him. Everybody in this house is gonna vote for him. Five people in the house voting for Trump, and they're all Democrat. The street, my neighbors, they like him, too. And, like I said, it's a Democrat town, but the Democrats went way too far to the left. Now Biden and them seem like they're all for themselves, for politicians and people like themselves, and not for the people.”
Another Democrat who has no illusions about Trump's popularity in Pennsylvania is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. After a poll this month said Biden has a 93% chance of winning Pa., Fetterman warned that the prediction give Biden far too rosey odds.
“I don't believe (Biden's) that strong,” he said in a TV interview. “I would never make the mistake of underestimating Donald Trump's appeal in popularity in Pennsylvania. I refused to make that mistake in 2016, and I was proven right.”
The only place we see that Biden has it over Trump is in the polls, which were epically wrong four years ago, when they predicted Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in.
Trump has all the energy on his side, the happy crowds, the yard signs in (largely) Democrat Levittown, and the flags along Lafayette Street in Bristol. The president doesn't act like a man who is about to lose bigly.
Even at this late hour in the campaign, with most polls saying it's going to be Biden, it seems hard to believe that Americans prefer a dark winter to more sunny years of peace and plenty, post-COVID.
Columnist JD Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or at [email protected].
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