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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Photo by paulhami/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump, on Tuesday, is traveling to Johnstown, Pennsylvania for a MAGA rally — an event that comes only three days after former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign event in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Between now and election day, Pennsylvania is a state that both campaigns are expected to pay very close attention to. And the Philadelphia Inquirer, in an article published this week, stresses that Pennsylvania, more and more, is looking like the state that could decide the election.


Inquirer reporters Julia Terruso, Sean Collins Walsh and Jonathan Tamari explain, "The occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue increasingly looks as if it could be decided by voters in Pennsylvania towns like (Johnstown). With 21 days until Election Day, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — along with the TV advertising and campaign events meant to help them — are zeroing in on the state, where 20 Electoral College votes could push either one to victory."

If Biden carries every state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won four years ago and flips Wisconsin and Michigan, that still doesn't get him to 270 electoral votes. But add Pennsylvania in that scenario, and Biden would become the next president of the United States. Biden has paths to victory outside of the Rust Belt: Arizona, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia, according to polls, are among the 2016 Trump states that are in play for Biden this year. But Biden is looking at Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin as the Rust Belt trifecta.

Trump's campaign, the Inquirer reporters note, sent former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to Pennsylvania for an "Italian-Americans for Trump" event in Philadelphia — and Biden has "ramped up his travel, aiming to focus the campaign on calling out Trump's mishandling of the pandemic and his contracting of COVID-19 as signs of the president's disregard for its seriousness. Biden visited Gettysburg, Erie and Johnstown in the last three weeks and plans to be in Philadelphia on Thursday for a televised town hall."

Biden needs a heavy voter turnout in Philly, an overwhelmingly Democratic and densely populated city that hasn't had a Republican mayor since the late Bernard Samuel left office in January 1952. But the former vice president also needs to win over as many residents of Central Pennsylvania as he can. Trump's strongest support among Pennsylvania voters is in the small towns and rural areas of Central Pennsylvania, which is the part of the state that Democratic strategist James Carville famously described as "Alabama in between" Philly and Pittsburgh.

Terruso, Walsh and Tamari note, "Priorities USA, one of the main Democratic Super PACs supporting Biden, told reporters last week that its analysis showed Trump's narrow path to reelection rides on Pennsylvania. Priorities rates Pennsylvania as the most likely 'tipping point,' the state most likely to deliver the decisive Electoral College vote that seals the election. But as polls show Biden rising and Trump struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic and his catching the virus, the Democratic group sees other routes to victory for Biden, with the former vice president viewed as competitive in states such as Florida, Arizona and Georgia."

The Inquirer reporters add that Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, recently told reporters, "We continue to see a widening of the path for Joe Biden to 270 Electoral College votes. Biden continues to shore up support, and Trump is struggling both to reconcile and to bring new voters into the fold. He is simply running out of time to turn things around."

According to Terruso, Walsh and Tamari, the Biden and Trump campaigns are both "pouring resources into Pennsylvania" — although Biden's resources are greater.

"Overall in September, the Biden campaign and pro-Biden outside groups outspent Trump and his allies by a 2-1 ratio, $31 million to $15 million, on Pennsylvania broadcast television, cable and radio, according to data from the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics," the reporters observe. "In recent weeks, the Trump campaign has cut advertising spending in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, and shifted resources to Pennsylvania. Even so, Biden maintains a spending advantage in the Keystone State. His campaign and allied outside groups have reserved almost $35 million in airtime in Pennsylvania from now through Election Day, compared with about $16 million booked by the Trump campaign and his allies, according to Advertising Analytics."

President Trump and former Vice President Biden at first 2020 presidential debate

Screenshot from C-Span YouTube

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Donald Trump is claiming that he will still debate despite the rule change that will cut off the candidates' microphones while their opponent delivers his initial two-minute response to each of the debate's topics. But everything else Trump and his campaign are saying sounds like they're laying the groundwork to back out.

"I will participate," Trump told reporters Monday night. "But it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased." At his Arizona rally Monday, Trump attacked moderator Kristen Welker as a "radical Democrat" and claimed she had "deleted her entire account," which is false. Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, went further in his whining about the debate.

Stepien touted a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates as "Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission)." That letter came before the CPD announced that it would mute microphones for portions of the debate in response to Trump's constant interruptions at the first debate, though Stepien knew such a decision was likely coming, writing, "It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

Shooooot, here I thought it was generous to Trump that the microphones will only be cut to give each candidate two uninterrupted minutes, leaving Trump the remainder of each 15-minute debate segment to interrupt.

But what did Stepien mean by "other possible rule changes," you ask? What was the first rule change? Well, it wasn't one. Stepien wrote to strongly complain that "We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the 'Foreign Policy Debate' in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign many months ago." Welker's announced topics include "Fighting COVID-19, American families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership," Stepien complained, using this as a launching pad to attack Biden on foreign policy.

Except this debate was never billed as a foreign policy debate. It's true that in past years, the third debate has sometimes focused on foreign policy, but here in 2020, the CPD's original announcement of debate formats and moderators said of the third debate, "The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate," and the first debate "will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator."

So even before the CPD finalized the decision to prevent Trump from interrupting for two minutes in each of six segments, so 12 minutes out of a 90-minute debate, Team Trump was falsely complaining that the debate was rigged. No wonder—as a Biden campaign spokesman noted, the Trump campaign is upset "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response."

Trump has lost one debate and backed out of one debate. If he goes into this one with the attitude he's showing now—attacking the moderator, attacking the topics, enraged that he can't interrupt for two entire minutes at a time—he's going to lose this one, badly, once again hurting his already weak reelection prospects. So which will it be? Back out and have that be the story, or alienate one of the largest audiences of the entire presidential campaign by showing what kind of person he is?