Decision 2020: Trump vs. Biden in Pennsylvania

Giovanna Komst ’24

Pennsylvania Presidential Election Results 2016
Pennsylvania Presidential Election Results 2016. Ali Zifan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the general election approaches, most eyes lay on the key battleground states in the U.S. to predict who will be the next United States President. Pennsylvania is notorious for being a toss-up red or blue state in the general election. Joe Biden and Donald Trump have spent much of their campaign directed toward winning Pennsylvania to sway their twenty electoral votes. For the previous six elections, Pennsylvania voted for the Democratic Party, but in 2016, they turned red and supported Donald Trump leading him to a victory campaign. Each year, the race was a close call with almost a fifty-fifty split in electoral votes for each political party. This year, Pennsylvania is seen as a tipping point in the election and it is said by most that the fate of who wins the election will be entirely dependent on the winner of Pennsylvania.

Some may wonder why a state like Pennsylvania would mean so much in a country-wide election, but the state has 20 electoral college votes making it the state with the fifth-greatest number of electoral votes. In total there are 538 electoral votes across the country and to win the election, the presidential candidate must earn the majority of these electoral votes. When looking at states that regularly vote towards a specific political party and the number of electoral votes they have, you can see that a swing state like Pennsylvania is needed for the win.

The reason Pennsylvania is so hard to win depends mostly on demographics. Throughout the years, the demographics and the political opinions of populations in Pennsylvania have severely changed. There are about twelve million people living in the state and due to different factors including education, race, gender, and location; contradictory political beliefs are bound to happen. In the urban areas of Pennsylvania such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, many voters tend to lean Democrat as do major companies in their suburbs. The college-educated women in these areas have now motivated many women throughout the state to start voting Democrat, which is a change from the 2016 election. Areas in the middle, the northeast, and the southwest of Pennsylvania tend to have more Republican voters due to the shutdown of coal and steel industries leaving many residents unemployed. President Trump focused on these people during his 2016 campaign, and those who used to be Democrats were promised that he would help after their lives had changed so drastically from the industry shut down. The problem with looking at these demographics to help predict the election is that according to the York Daily Record and political analyst Jesse White, “More than voting for Democrats or Republicans, Pennsylvanians tend to vote with their gut instincts, typically casting their ballots for the candidate they perceive to be more genuine,” and White says, “Pennsylvania is a state that chooses personality over political party.” Considering the fact that many people in the state change their party and who they support on a yearly basis, an accurate prediction is hard to come by. The best guesses are made by political researchers and analysts but no one can ever be entirely sure how the cards will fall in Pennsylvania.

Because of the intensity of this race, each candidate has devoted much of their time and money campaigning in Pennsylvania. Both Biden and Trump have visited the state around five times, an abnormal amount for one state. The candidates combined have also spent $195 million on TV ads in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is second in TV ad spending by candidates, only behind Florida. Biden has invested roughly $121 million and it has been estimated President Trump has spent $74 million. Each candidate has focused his campaign on winning this region. The residents of the area have been bombarded with phone calls, social media ads, billboards, and more. Along with that, residents often display their political beliefs through yard signs, posters, car parades, etc. Election time in Pennsylvania is nothing less than overwhelming.

After following the campaign for the past fifty days, Biden has continuously been the predicted winner by many different sources including RealClear Politics and FiveThirtyEight. Both have compiled many polls from sources favored in each political party and show each winning margin predicted by them. Their researchers then use this information along with their own polls and history to predict the winner of the state. The speculated winning margin has been in Biden’s favor each week. FiveThirtyEight has run an election stimulation 40,000 times and condensed the information to a sample of 100. Biden is said to win 86 out of these 100 stimulations. Biden has also continuously contributed more money to the campaign in Pennsylvania than Trump according to weekly checks including but not limited to the sources Open Secrets and The Wesleyan Project.

These past weeks there has been no budge in thoughts of Biden winning the state by a decently sized margin, but it is not difficult for these predictions to be completely wrong and for Trump to win the twenty electoral votes. Pennsylvania is an extremely important state in winning this election, but no prediction can ever be completely true as we saw in the 2016 election when Clinton was predicted to beat Trump by a landslide. November 3rd holds the fate of our next President and regardless of any history or predications, we will all be on the edge of our seats.