The Key to the Race: Pennsylvania


It’s finally the week America has been waiting for, and a lot of Americans are wondering if this election cycle will be a repeat of 2016 or yet another reawakening of American politics. Because of the way the electoral college system works, and even with this record turnout so far, it could all come down to our neighbor: Pennsylvania. 

In 2016, Pennsylvania was truly the make-or-break state for Donald Trump’s path to the presidency. Heading into 2016, Pennsylvania had never voted for a Republican in six subsequent presidential elections! President Trump carried the state by just 0.7 percentage points – only 44,000 votes considering the almost 6 million ballots cast statewide. It wasn’t Philadelphia or Pittsburgh that gave Trump the victory, rather it was Pennsylvania’s rural and rust-belt counties in all parts of the state except the southeast, according to The Hill.

In 2020, Pennsylvania remains hotly contested, with former Vice President Joe Biden up by just four points in the averages of mainstream polls. FiveThirtyEight gives Biden a ninety-six percent chance of winning the White House if he wins Pennsylvania, and gives Trump an eighty-four percent chance of reelection if he wins this state. 

So what would determine a Biden victory or Trump victory in Pennsylvania? With Pennsylvania’s odd demographics, that’s not a simple question to answer! Most experts believe the rank-and-file union workers in the so-called “Rust-Belt” mining areas will decide the winner in the state, as most rural counties are expected to vote for Trump and cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are expected to vote for Biden. These union workers are considered a reliable subset of the Democratic coalition; however, this certainly wasn’t the case in 2016, when many reliably “blue” mining districts flipped to Trump. A Biden victory in Pennsylvania means he would almost certainly have to win back these union workers to take back these districts, while a Trump victory in Pennsylvania means he would need to bring out low-propensity voters in rural counties and hold onto the support he received from union workers in 2016. 

To make matters more complicated, there has been an all-out-war over the legitimacy of mail-in voting between Democrats and Republicans in the state. Republicans called for the counting of all mail-in ballots on election night, while Democrats called for an extension to counting and tallying these ballots. Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with the Democrats and allowed Pennsylvania counties an extension to count ballots – for now. 

You may be wondering, What are the polls saying, and how close are they this time? Most swing state polls such as those in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire do predict a Biden victory. Pennsylvania, however, has Biden up by only about four percentage points according to FiveThirtyEight, which is just within the poll’s margin of error.

America must make its decision for whether we want a Biden presidency or four more years of a Trump presidency. It’s important to keep in mind just how many variables there are to this election, and in most situations Pennsylvania emerges as the deciding factor in the race. But regardless of who wins Pennsylvania or who wins the election, we must remember that we are all Americans and stand united with each other.