With an edge on managing the pandemic, Biden leads Trump 49-42 percent in new Pa. poll | Thursday Morning Coffee

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Dunmore, Pa., on Thursday, 7/9/20 (Screen Capture)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

With 68 days to go before Election Day, former Vice President Joe Biden holds a 49-42 percent lead among registered voters over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, with respondents giving the first-term president an edge on managing the economy, but finding Biden better suited to manage the massive challenges still struggling under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a still roiling debate over racial justice.

The new poll by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., comes amid a week in which Trump and Republicans have tried, with varying degrees of effectiveness, to use this week’s Republican National Convention to make an affirmative argument that the former reality television star deserves four more years in the White House, even with 179,000 Americans dead from the pandemic and the economy in deep disarray.

The head-to-head numbers in Pennsylvania, a state that Trump carried by barely a percentage point in 2016, are effectively unchanged from the last Franklin & Marshall poll in July that saw Biden with a 50-41 percent advantage. Biden holds an average lead of 5.5 percent in the Keystone State, according to the RealClear Politics polling average.

(Franklin & Marshall College)

As it did in the last F&M poll, the pandemic ranks at the top of voters’ list of concerns this campaign season. Nearly half of respondents, 49 percent, say they believe Biden has the better plan to handle the pandemic, compared to 30 percent who say the same of Trump.

Democrats spent their convention week hammering home Biden’s qualifications to manage the nation’s worst public health crisis in a century. And the message appears to have penetrated. Half of respondents say Biden better understands the concerns of ordinary Americans. And little more than half of all respondents, 51 percent, reported watching all or some of the convention. More than a quarter of Republicans (27 percent) and more than half of independents (56 percent) who watched the convention say they plan to vote for Biden, the poll found.

More of the state’s registered voters have an unfavorable (56 percent) than favorable (43 percent) opinion of Trump, the poll found. Asked the same question about Biden, opinion was equally split 48-49 on the ex-veep’s favorables, and 8 percent of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of both candidates.

With the U.S. Postal Service in disarray, and Trump spreading falsehoods to undermine the credibility of mail-in balloting, nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters say they plan to vote in-person on Election Day, the poll found.

In an intense election year, Keystone State voters are engaged, with 72 percent saying they’re very interested in the 2020 election season, and 98 percent saying they’re certain, or all but certain, to vote.

The Franklin & Marshall poll includes the opinions of 681 Pennsylvania registered voters, including 321 Democrats, 272 Republicans, and 88 independents. The poll, conducted from Aug. 17-23, has a margin of error of 5.2 percent.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Despite past successes in other settings, state officials say they’re not sure if they’ll be able to as effectively track the spread of COVID-19 among Pennsylvania school children, Elizabeth Hardison reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf and other elected officials unveiled a monument honoring the history of Harrisburg’s Old 8th Ward, a Black and immigrant neighborhood that was razed in the 1900s to clear the way for an expansion of the state Capitol. Cassie Miller takes you there with an engrossing multimedia presentation.

A new campaign ad brands GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Perry as ‘an extremist’ on climate issues, your humble newsletter author reports.

The national office of the NAACP has taken over operations of the civil rights organization’s Philadelphia chapter after its president posted an anti-Semitic meme to Facebook, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz explains what libertarians like Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanonhave gotten wrong about wearing a mask. And an industry advocate explains why nurse practitioners are more important than ever during the pandemic.

(Photo via Flickr Commons)

Elsewhere.
As is the case with COVID-19, Philadelphia’s Black residents are bearing the brunt of the city’s drug abuse epidemic, the Inquirer reports.
Allegheny County is considering easing some of its COVID-19 restrictions, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive looks at how school bus companies will keep students and workers safe during the new term.
The Morning Call gauges the legislative response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s call to legalize recreational marijuana.
In the Dallas school district in Luzerne County, students are back for hybrid classes, the Citizens-Voice reports.
Officials in Erie have submitted their grants wish list to the state, GoErie reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

Police reform protests in Philly have begun anew after the shooting in Kenosha, Wisc., WHYY-FM reports.
WITF-FM 
looks at state and community efforts to expand voting for Pennsylvania’s Spanish-speaking residents.
A new CNBC/Change Research poll has Joe Biden up 49-46 over Trump in Pennsylvania, PoliticsPA reports.
Stateline.org explains how the fight against fraud has slowed unemployment payments to the folks who really need them.
Politico breaks down Vice President Mike Pence’s RNC speech on Wednesday night.

What Goes On.
10 a.m, 140MC:
 The House Republican Policy Committee holds a public hearing on the “importance of law enforcement in protecting Pennsylvania’s communities.”
12 p.m, Capitol Steps: Rally urging the Pa. Board of Pardons to commute sentences. A backlog of applications currently sit on Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf
 holds a 1 p.m. newser at Ridgeway Community Church in suburban Harrisburg to talk about his plans to provide for safe and secure elections in the state. State Senate Republicans, you’ll recall, offered their own plan earlier this week that Democrat Wolf described as a starting point for conversations.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Harrisburg PR guy Jack Sherzer, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir. Have a birthday you want noted in this space? Hit us up at [email protected].

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a banger from the legendary Johnny Marr to get your Thursday rolling. From his live LP ‘Adrenalin Baby,’ it’s ‘Easy Money.’ Play this one loud.

Thursday’s Gratuitous Basketball Link.
The NBA 
postponed a trio of playoff games on Wednesday after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor as a show of support for protests in their home state of Wisconsin.

And now you’re up to date.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press