Pennsylvania 2020 election: Who will win key US swing state?

The Keystone State is living up to its name

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 03 November 2020 18:19 GMT
Listening to Donald Trump at a rally in Montoursville, PA
Listening to Donald Trump at a rally in Montoursville, PA (AFP via Getty Images)

The state where the first states signed the US Constitution could save the Trump presidency – or bring his reign to an end.

What’s at stake

Of all the major swing states in 2020, Pennsylvania has consistently received the most attention. That’s partly because of the outsized role it played in 2016, but also because, with 20 electoral votes, it is simply one of the largest states that Joe Biden has a strong chance  of taking off Donald Trump. If Mr Trump loses it, it will be very hard for him to win the Electoral College overall. Yes, there are other paths to a second Trump term, but they remain highly improbable.

Last time around

Michigan and Wisconsin came over to Mr Trump by narrower margins in raw vote, but it was Pennsylvania that dealt Hillary Clinton her biggest blow. She held her last major rally there on the eve of the election, standing with her husband and the Obamas in Philadelphia’s Independence Square at a massive event helmed by Bruce Springsteen.

Ultimately, Ms Clinton was hurt by weak turnout in the Philadelphia suburbs and a surge in Republican votes in the state’s rural and post-industrial interior, and she lost the state by 0.72 points – her second tightest loss after Michigan.

On the ground

Throughout the campaign, Pennsylvania has been at the top of Mr Biden’s target list, its history of breaking for Democrats giving his party hope that a course correction is in the offing with a more popular candidate than last time around – as well as a surge in coronavirus cases through September and October that has foregrounded one of Mr Trump’s greatest weaknesses.

The president, meanwhile, has pitched himself to the state as the only person who can defend the state’s fracking industry from Mr Biden and Kamala Harris’s Green New Deal.

The home stretch

Overall, the polls have shown some narrowing in the state, but Mr Biden still holds a lead of roughly five points. But with Mr Trump hitting Pennsylvania hard with rallies in the campaign’s final week, he is clearly not inclined toward complacency – even though, compared to Mr Trump, there are various ways he can win the presidency if the Keystone State doesn’t go his way. They may be tougher and more elaborate, but they remain real.

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