Election Eve 2020: Three things to think about | Monday Morning Coffee

November 2, 2020 7:07 am

(Capital-Star file)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Well this is it, the Monday before Election Day. If this were a normal year, we’d say we’re almost there, that we’d come ’round the final turn and were headed into the home stretch.

But this is 2020, and nothing is normal. We’re in the middle of the worst public health crisis in a century. The campaign for the White House has been perhaps the most brutal and divisive since the pre-Civil War era. There’s still unrest in the streets, most recently sparked by the tragically unnecessary death of a Black man named Walter Wallace Jr. at the hands of Philadelphia police.

Pennsylvanians have been voting for weeks now. A further surge of voters is expected on Tuesday. And, barring some extraordinary twist of fate, no one expects to go to bed on Tuesday confident in their knowledge of the identity of the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

No, nothing at all is normal. What’s more, this election will demand something of Americans that the pandemic has proven we’re spectacularly bad at: Patience and restraint.

Consider this for a moment: the Black Plague ravaged Europe for five years, claiming 25 million to 50 million lives worldwide before it was done. America has been living with the COVID-19 pandemic for just seven months. Yes, it’s centuries later, and we’ve seen quantum leaps in technology and knowledge since then.

Also consider that information travels at a mind-bending 33 million times faster than it did 200 years ago. It now takes 90 minutes to fly from New York to Detroit. In the 1800s, such a trip would have taken four weeks, according to an analysis by Jalopnik.

So accustomed are we now to instant service, instant solutions and instant knowledge, we’ve forgotten that everything, from curing disease, to spreading the news of an election winner, used to move at a glacial pace.

And that’s what’s ahead of us now. It seems a good bet that it’s going to take a while before we know who all the winners are. And just because it’s taking a while, as one expert pointed out in our pages a week or so ago, that doesn’t mean that the results are fraudulent or being tampered with.

It just means it’s taking a while.

So with that admonition in mind, here are three things to think about as we head into the final 24 hours of the 2020 campaign.

(Emerson College poll)

1. By The Numbers. An Emerson College poll released Sunday showed former Vice President Joe Biden with a 50-46 percent lead over President Donald Trump in the Keystone State.

The Boston college’s results are closer than last week’s Franklin & Marshall poll that showed Biden with a 50-44 percent lead over Trump. But they track with the RealClear Politics polling average, which showed Biden with an average 4.3 percent lead in Pennsylvania over Trump.

But what’s really interesting about the poll aren’t the head-to-heads, but the two smaller columns. Only 2 percent of the Emerson poll’s 823 likely voters say they prefer someone else. Ditto for the undecideds. Four years ago, Trump won big among the people who decided in the last two weeks of the campaign. The numbers here suggest that there just aren’t as many of those folks this time around.

Similarly, there’s a smaller universe of people who are voting for someone else — which tracks with what the Biden campaign has been saying privately. And among those Pennsylvanians who voted for another candidate in 2016, 56 percent of them say they’re voting for Biden in 2020, according to the Emerson canvass.

Now, we’re not using these results as evidence that Biden has Pennsylvania locked up. Nor would we use them to predict a Biden win in the Keystone State. Again, this is 2020, and way too much weird stuff has happened this year to be able to predict anything about anything. But these are the trend lines heading into the final hours.

(Getty Images)

2. Candidates, candidates, candidates
As if we needed further reminding of the importance of the Keystone State in the last 24 hours, the candidates, spouses and surrogates are going to be inescapable.

Team Trump is calling in Vice President Mike Pence to make closing arguments to voters in Latrobe, Pa. on Monday. Trump romped in Westmoreland County in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton 63-32 percent. So this is more a matter of shoring up the base than trying to win last-minute converts. Pence is also scheduled to speak in Erie later in the day. In a bit of next-level trolling, Trump is set to address supporters at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport in Avoca, Luzerne County on Monday afternoon.

Team Biden is parking it in Pennsylvania, and staying there all day, deploying the Democratic nominee, his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and veep nominee Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, across the state for a series of events throughout the day on Monday.

According to a schedule released by the campaign, Joe Biden starts the day in Beaver County with labor leaders and ends it with a drive-in event in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Jill Biden hits Erie and Lawrence counties early on for canvassing events, before rejoining Joe Biden in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

Harris has stops in Luzerne County and the Lehigh Valley, before joining Emhoff for a drive-in event in Philadelphia. Emhoff has canvassing events in Lancaster, Montgomery and Bucks counties ahead of the drive-in event in Philly on Monday night.

And because all the world’s a stage, Lady Gaga is set to join the Bidens in Pittsburgh, while John Legend joins Harris and Emhoff in Philadelphia, the campaign said.

Finally, because one next-level troll deserves another, we can exclusively reveal that Team Biden has bought up every solitary square inch of ad space on the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader’s home page ahead of Trump’s trip to NEPA and plans to use it call attention to his record on the pandemic.

(c) Scott Van Blarcom –

3. The Battle over Ballots.
The New York Times reported Sunday 
that the Trump campaign is keeping up its campaign against states, including Pennsylvania, where late-arriving ballots are going to be counted after Nov. 3, describing them as “illegitimate.”

“We should know the result of the election on Nov. 3, the evening of Nov. 3. “That’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it should be.” Trump said during a rally in Dubuque, Iowa on Sunday, where he “repeated a flurry of falsehoods,” the Times reported.

Boockvar told NBC on Sunday that a longer count is inevitable because the state is expecting 10 times as many mail-in ballots as it received four years ago, the Times reported.

“But having said that, I want to be clear that elections have never been called on election night,” Boockvar said, according to the Times. “This is a process, and we want to make sure that every single vote of every valid voter is securely and accurately counted.”

As the Capital-Star previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court let Pennsylvania’s late-arriving ballot provision stand, but held open the possibility that it might take up the matter after Election Day, when new Justice Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be fully up to speed. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has told counties to segregate late-arriving ballots in the instance of just such an eventuality.

Meanwhile, some counties say they’re not going to start counting mail-in ballots until Wednesday, which seems to be playing right into the GOP strategy of trying to undermine those ballots.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Cassie Miller
 leads our coverage this morning with your primer to Election Day 2020, and everything you need to know about the Big Day. Miller also goes deep on some Franklin & Marshall polling data in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

A new study shows the roots of LGBTQ poverty and the need for government data, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

In case you missed it, Elizabeth Hardison has what you need to know about Pennsylvania’s new election dashboard, which will show the progress of the mail-in ballot count alongside the regular election returns.

And here’s an amazingly useful map from our staff explaining how Pennsylvania’s counties plan to count all those ballots.

(Image via Flickr Commons)

The Inquirer
 has 10 Pa. counties to watch as results come in on Tuesday.
Pointing to Pa. President Donald Trump says his campaign will be going in with its lawyers as the polls close, the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive runs down some of the legislative races that could flip on Tuesday (paywall).
The Morning Call previews Kamala Harris’ trip to the Lehigh Valley on Monday.
The Citizens-Voice previews the candidates’ visits to Luzerne County on Monday.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day.


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City Island ??

A post shared by Michael Yatsko (@yatsko) on

WHYY-FM looks at Joe Biden’s efforts to boost Black turnout in Pennsylvania.
Millions of voters risk missing the election because of a lack of English proficiency, WITF-FM reports.
GoErie explains how Trump turned Erie red in 2016The county remains on the bubble this year.
The York Daily Record urges readers to know their rights ahead of Tuesday’s election.
The U.S. has more rapid COVID-19 tests. There’s no national strategy to use them, reports.
Politico runs down the eight key states on Tuesday. Chances are good that you know at least one of them.
NYMag’s Intelligencer talked to 1,613 readers about civic participation and early voting in 2020.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to veteran Harrisburg-area civil rights activist Joseph Robinson, who celebrated on Sunday.

Heavy Rotation.
In 1993, former Replacements leader Paul Westerberg put out an absolute gem of a solo record called ’14 Songs.’ It remains one of our favorite records of all time. And its lead track ‘Knockin on Mine,’ possesses some of the best couplets of early ’90s alt.rock radio.

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Sadly Aston Villa lost 4-3 to a surging Southampton on Sunday afternoon. The Villans have dropped to 7th place in the Premier League table after briefly flirting with first place in this very strange season.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.