US Elections 2020: Swing States Decide on Election: Can Biden Win Back Pennsylvania?
The presidential election in the USA is decided in the so-called swing states. One of the most important of these is Pennsylvania, where Donald Trump won by a wafer-thin margin in 2016. Can its challenger Joe Biden recapture the state on November 3rd?
Bob Yarnall can be seen in the soldier nine years after he left the corps of marines. The 52-year-old American is wiry, his hair is cropped short on the sides and a scar shows through underneath. The emblem of the corps of eagle, globe and anchor is emblazoned on Yarnall’s polo shirt, and on his mask its motto: “Semper fi”, Semper Fidelis, always faithful.
Yarnall was with the Marines for 25 years. He’s white and male, veteran and avowed Republican. The Republican US President Donald Trump is building on Americans like him in the November 3rd election. The ex-sergeant, however, despises Trump.
Contested swing states
This is particularly unfortunate for the 74-year-old president because Yarnall is from the Monroe district of Pennsylvania, where every vote could count. Pennsylvania is one of the so-called Battlegrounds or Swing States, where neither Trump’s Republicans nor the Democrats of challenger Joe Biden (77) can count on a clear majority. Other swing states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
In these states the election is decided. Four years ago, Trump won against his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania by just 44,292 of the more than 6.1 million votes.
Polls see Trump behind, but that was also the case in the last election
The result in Yarnall’s constituency of Monroe was even tighter: Clinton was ahead here, but only with 532 or 0.0076 percent of the 69,752 votes. It wasn’t the first time that things got tight in Monroe: In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush won by just four votes.
In Pennsylvania, polls currently see Trump behind, but that was true four years ago. Trump said in a campaign appearance in late September: “We won Pennsylvania last time, and this time we will win by a much larger margin.”
In the election campaign office of the Democrats in Monroe’s manageable capital Stroudsburg, they are working to ensure that Biden and his runner-up Kamala Harris slow Trump down. There are all kinds of campaign accessories here, including the front yard signs popular in the USA.
A man comes through the door without mouth and nose protection, he asks for a Biden / Harris sign. Campaign assistant Linda Schwartz (73) kindly asks him to put on one of the masks on display. “If I have to go through this shit, I’ll forego,” the man bursts out. The sign was not for him anyway, but for his daughter. He did not have to have this discussion in Trump’s “victory office” in Stroudsburg: They don’t wear masks there, even if the president got infected with the corona virus in the middle of the election campaign.
Many Republicans vote for Democrat Biden
Alongside Schwartz, Mark Dodel holds the position in the Democrats’ office. His daughter studies medicine in Mannheim. He hopes that she will soon no longer have to explain to Germans why Trump is in the White House. The 64-year-old retiree is on the Pennsylvania Democratic Board of Directors and says there is a lot of enthusiasm for Biden and the Democrats in the Monroe district.
“I’ve been in a lot of elections. And I’ve never seen such great interest.” Just recently the Democrats in Stroudsburg even bought signs reading “Republicans for Biden / Harris” and “Veterans for Biden / Harris” – because there is demand for them.
Ex-Marine Yarnall – who now teaches civics at a school – loads several of these signs into his trunk. “This really is the most important choice of my life,” he says. “Democracy is at stake if you ask me.” Trump is trampling the constitution. “Any other president would have been kicked out of office for what he did.”
The USA needs a leader “who unites instead of divides”
With Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, an appearance in a light-colored suit, which was criticized as being too casual, was blown up into a scandal. Trump, on the other hand, let his supporters get away with even the most heinous behavior. “That idiot goes around saying I can take a woman’s pussy and that’s okay.”
Yarnall says, “This country needs a leader, someone who unites instead of divides.” As a Republican who criticizes Trump, he has already been “insulted in all possible ways” by his supporters. In the past, political views could be discussed in a civilized manner. “Now it’s personal.”
The dispute over Trump runs across families and breaks friendships, including with him. “I see it this way: I didn’t lose friends through politics. I lost friends through character and morals. If you support someone with this character and morality, then you are not someone I want to be around.”
The red carpet: dramatic preponderance of Trump signs
Trump is still very popular in Pennsylvania, especially in the country. In 2016, the Democrats were able to score especially in the regions around the three largest cities Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown, where the districts on the map with the results from 2016 are colored blue in the Democrats’ color. Almost everywhere else: a red carpet. In the front gardens of the houses on the country roads, there is a dramatic preponderance of Trump / pence signs.
The president showed before his Covid-19 illness that he can mobilize masses in Pennsylvania. During a performance in Latrobe in early September, thousands of his supporters had to stay at the gates due to overcrowding. Speaking of the Democrats at a later event in Harrisburg, he said, “To be honest, the only way to win Pennsylvania is if you cheat on the ballots.” His unsubstantiated thesis: Postal voting leads to election fraud.
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Word didn’t seem to have got around until his party in Pennsylvania. There they advertise that postal voting is “safe” and “wise”. Yarnall turns Trump’s argument into the opposite: Biden will win Pennsylvania if Trump doesn’t have dirty tricks up his sleeve, he is convinced of that. The Democrats fear, for example, that Trump could declare himself the winner on election night before the postal votes are counted.
Hope for Biden in Pennsylvania?
Yarnall cites several reasons why he believes Biden won’t share Clinton’s fate from four years ago. Biden – who himself comes from Scranton, Pennsylvania – is much more popular in the state than Clinton ever was. Yarnall also believes that many more women than 2016 would vote and vote for the Biden / Harris ticket.
Trump’s alleged statement that American casualties are “losers” cost him the support of many military families (Trump denies that he ever said that). Last but not least, the ex-Marine says, “I have loads of Republican friends who I know won’t vote for Trump.”
Campaign worker Dodel is counting on the fact that on November 3rd, members of minorities in the metropolis of Pittsburgh will flock en masse to the ballot boxes and vote for Biden. Biden is very popular among black people. Nevertheless, Dodel slows his confidence, after all he remembers the moment when he learned on November 8, 2016 that Trump had surprisingly won Pennsylvania. “I was very depressed.” Before this election he is optimistic and he hopes that the polls are correct this time. But Dodel also says: “I’m not sure about anything.”
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dpa / ksk