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On the Ground in Must-Win Pennsylvania: Where Swing-Voters Stand on Trump vs. Biden

10-28-2020
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Trump and Biden signs

ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA – With Election Day now less than one week away, both presidential candidates are focusing their efforts on battleground states, perhaps most importantly Pennsylvania, which helped put Donald Trump over the edge in 2016.

But what's the feeling in 2020?

CBN News traveled to Erie County, one of a handful of swing counties in the Keystone state, to talk to locals and get the political lay of the land.

Traditionally a blue county, home to many blue-collar, working-class Americans, it flipped red for Donald Trump in 2016. And now in 2020, there's still visible support for him, but there's also enthusiasm for Joe Biden, and that's something Hillary Clinton didn't have.

"I travel a little bit so when I go to rural areas I see more Trump signs," John Van Houwe, an Erie local and Trump supporter, told us. "When I'm in the city it's more 50-50."

And that's what we saw too: In more rural Erie County, Trump-Pence signs dominate. But in downtown Erie, Biden-Harris signs fill the lawns.

Joseph Morris, head of the political science department at Mercyhurst University, points to political signage, among other things, as an indicator of voter enthusiasm.

"The 2020 election contrasts sharply with what we saw going on in 2016 here in Erie County," he told us. "In 2016, it was difficult to find a Hillary Clinton sign anywhere in the city. This year there are Joe Biden signs everywhere."

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Historically, Erie County votes blue in local and national elections. Morris describes locals as "salt of the earth," hard-working people, who have often been without jobs for some time.

That's how Trump flipped Pennsylvania red in 2016, promising to bring back manufacturing jobs to industrial communities like Erie.

Our team got a mixed reaction from locals in town.

"I believe he has kept his word," said John Van Houwe, who proudly wore a Trump, "Keep America Great" baseball cap. "He's done what he's said. He's a strong leader."

"Out of my friends, we're all Trump supporters and we have a couple of friends who were Biden supporters, but they have switched to Trump this year," Shannon Wassman, who put up Trump-Pence signs in the lawn of her downtown Erie home, told us.

We ran into Cheryl Stephany at the public library who half-jokingly said she would move overseas if Trump wins. "I think he's a narcissist. I think he's off his… I really do think he's not all there," she told us.

Matt Xander isn't thrilled with either candidate. "I talk to a bunch of different friends and people and I think this year, you know, sometimes we'll say we don't have great choices, but this year I think it really exemplifies it this election," he said.

Just 15 miles south of Erie, a massive Biden-Harris sign hangs on Dysa Stephany's family barn.

"When you come through my small town of Waterford, there's actually a billboard that says 'Waterford is Trump Country in 2020', and that made me feel really concerned," she told us. "It's not 'Trump Country.' There's lots of Biden supporters in this area."

During the month of October, poll after poll has shown Biden with a small lead in Pennsylvania, ranging from plus-two to plus-seven. Though, since the final presidential debate on October 22nd, polls have narrowed.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen tells CBN News Biden needs to turn out the suburban voters of Philadelphia. If he can do that, and suppress the state's more rural vote even just a little bit, it could spell victory for Democrats.

"It's a simple equation," said Rasmussen. "Do so many people show up to vote and mail in their votes in Philadelphia, and the immediate surrounding area, to overwhelm the rest of the state? Because this is a state that greatly reflects the urban-rural split in America."

Both campaigns see Erie as a must-win county and have made stops here.

Professor Morris says it could test the Rust Belt's loyalty to Trump. He's keeping a close eye on Erie and Luzerne counties.

"Demographically they're very similar," Morris explained. "Luzerne is a little bit larger in terms of its population but I think by understanding what's going on in these two places, we'll have a pretty darn good idea about which way Pennsylvania is going to go."

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