Franklin & Marshall Poll: Biden leads Trump 50-44 percent in battleground Pa. | Thursday Morning Coffee

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 03: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a Super Tuesday campaign event at Baldwin Hills Recreation Center on March 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Biden is hoping his make-or-break victory in the South Carolina primary has influenced Super Tuesday voters to lean toward him. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Less than a week before Election Day, former Vice President Joe Biden holds a 50-44 percent lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters in Pennsylvania, a state the Republican president must win if he wants to secure a second term in the White House.

The poll comes as Trump and Biden make frantic final pitches to voters across a half-dozen swing states, including Pennsylvania, that will be determinative on Election Day.

Trump carried Pennsylvania by little more than 44,000 votes in 2016, as he became the first Republican to carry the Keystone State since President George H.W. Bush did it in the 1980s.

In an accompanying memo, pollsters noted that “an important component of  … Trump’s 2016 victory in Pennsylvania came from a massive vote advantage in the counties he won.”

But in the new canvass, Biden “currently holds a larger vote share in the counties Hillary Clinton won in 2016 than … Trump holds in the counties he won that year.”

As of Wednesday, Biden held an average lead of 3.8 percentage point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania, according to the RealClear Politics polling average, as the race tightens in its final days.

The poll, conducted from Oct. 19-25, includes the opinions of 558 likely voters: 268 Democrats, 229 Republicans and 61 independents. It has a margin of error of 5 percent.

(Franklin & Marshall College screen capture)

Reflecting lines at county election offices and satellite locations across the state, voter interest in the election remains high. More than three-quarters of respondents (77 percent) said they were “very interested” in the election, reflecting a similar sentiment in 2016.

The poll, which closed before the Oct. 27 deadline for obtaining a mail-in ballot and early, in-person voting, finds more voters (53 percent) saying they intend to vote in-person than by mail-in ballot (44 percent). Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) said the vote count in the state will be accurate if mail-in balloting is widely used. But there were wide partisan discrepancies in that finding, pollsters noted.

Trump continues to get poor marks for his management of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 33 percent approving of his performance. Through midday Wednesday, the state Department of Health had confirmed 2,228 new cases, for a total of 200,674 statewide. The department confirmed 8,718 fatalities from COVID-19.

Voters listed the pandemic (27 percent) as their top concern this election season, with concerns about the economy finishing second at 21 percent.

According to the poll, more of the state’s registered voters have an unfavorable (57 percent) than favorable (42 percent) opinion of Trump, while slightly more voters have a favorable (52 percent) than unfavorable (47 percent) opinion of Biden.

Similarly, two in five voters (42 percent) said Trump was doing an “excellent” or “good” job, which tracked with his rating in recent F&M polls.

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

Our Stuff.
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request by Pennsylvania Republicans to fast-track their appeal of the state’s extended deadline for mail-in ballots. But the court held open the possibility of taking up the issue after the election, Elizabeth Hardison and Stephen Caruso report, with a small assist from your humble newsletter author.

The U.S. Postal Service lost an unknown number of ballots that were on their way to voters in Butler County, a local official has claimed. Caruso has the details.

Nearly half of Pennsylvania’s counties are under a drought watch, Cassie Miller reports.

Conservative author Tom Nichols, a former aide to the late Republican U.S. Sen. John Heinz, of Pennsylvania, says his old boss wouldn’t recognize the GOP of Donald Trump. Our conversation — and more.

Advocates and allies in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community are working to save a mural of the late Gloria Casarez, the city’s first director of LGBT affairs and a pioneer in Philly’s LGBTQ community, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

With Philadelphia reeling from yet another police shooting of a Black man, experts have offered advice on coping with racial trauma, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, achieving herd immunity to COVID-19 through infection is a dangerous and deadly proposition that might not even work, a University of Pittsburgh expert writes. And a Pennsylvania artist wants you to make the choices that make sense when you cast your ballot. 

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 27: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump gave the speech in front of 1500 invited guests. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Elsewhere.
President Donald Trump
 has announced a trio of Halloween events in the statePennLive reports.
The Inquirer explains how Latino voters in Pennsylvania could end up swinging the election.
Ivanka Trump campaigned in western Pennsylvania on Wednesday. The Tribune-Review has the details.
The Morning Call talks to Pennsylvania bar owners who are struggling with occupancy restrictions as the state goes through another COVID-19 spike.
Elections officials in Luzerne County heard complaints about slow ballots and other issues, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day (Who’s a good boy edition):


Philadelphia police are set to release the 911 tape and bodycam footage in the death of Walter Wallace Jr., WHYY-FM reports.
New bodycam footage shows the aftermath of a police shooting in Lancaster, WITF-FM reports.
A new Democratic National Committee ad slams President Donald Trump, PoliticsPA reports.
Stateline.org 
explains how the pandemic and anti-racism protests may hasten cannabis legalization.
Trump’s 
‘racist stench’ will stay with his enablers forever, Jonathan Chait writes for NY Mag’s Intelligencer.

What Goes On.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar hold a 2 p.m. briefing on the latest on election-related issues.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition). 
State Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, holds a 5 p.m. reception at The Waterfront Lehigh Valley in Allentown. Admission runs $200 to $5,000.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Teagan & Sara for your Thursday. From 2004, it’s ‘Walking With a Ghost.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Marcus Rashford’s off-the-bench hat trick is proof that Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær is using his squad to the best effectPaul Wilson argues in the Guardian.

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