9:21 PM - October 20, 2020
9:21 PM - October 20, 2020

Trump makes pitch to Pennsylvania with campaign speech in Erie

President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally at Erie International Airport, Tom Ridge Field in Erie, Pa, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar / AP
President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally at Erie International Airport, Tom Ridge Field in Erie, Pa, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

President Donald Trump concluded his campaign visit Tuesday night in Erie after a speech that stuck to a mostly familiar script two weeks before Election Day, as his window for a comeback narrowed and polls suggest that he’s still behind Democrat Joe Biden in Pennsylvania and nationally.

Needing to change the trajectory of a race that he has trailed for months, according to public surveys, Trump mostly rehashed attacks on Biden and the news media while returning to promises of an economic recovery and strong support for police. He hit many of the same notes as he did at a rally last week in Johnstown. He added a specific line about 60 Minutes reporter Leslie Stahl, who had recorded an interview with him.

“You have to watch what we’re going to do to 60 Minutes,” Trump said, in a statement that played to his base’s disdain for the media, but seemed unlikely to move the average voter. “Leslie Stahl’s not going to be happy.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican who represents Erie, briefly joined Trump on stage and, referring to the president’s recent bout with the coronavirus, said, “There’s no flu that’s gonna keep this man down!”

— Jonathan Tamari

8:11 PM - October 20, 2020
8:11 PM - October 20, 2020

Trump says at Erie rally that U.S. is ‘rounding the turn’ on pandemic as Pa. cases spike

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night once again said the coronavirus pandemic is nearing its end, an assertion he has made for months that is flatly contradicted by rising case counts.

We’re “rounding the turn on the pandemic,” Trump said during a rally in Erie, two weeks before Election Day.

Pennsylvania is now averaging 1,460 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, the highest since mid-April.

“If we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing,” Trump said, pointing to the state’s role as a decisive swing state.

Erie County, with a proud but diminished manufacturing tradition in the state’s northwest corner, has been a nationally watched bellwether ever since it swung sharply in 2016, shifting from its solidly Democratic past to narrowly favor Trump.

— Jonathan Tamari, Laura McCrystal

4:50 PM - October 20, 2020
4:50 PM - October 20, 2020

If you have a mail ballot, just use it, Pennsylvania officials urge

With anxieties running high around mail delays and long waits while mail ballots are counted, some Pennsylvania voters who already have ballots may be tempted to change course and vote in person at the polls.

But officials in both parties this week cautioned against that, saying voters should simply return their mail ballots as soon as they can.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, and Al Schmidt, a Republican and one of three city commissioners who run Philadelphia elections, stressed that mail voting should be trusted. And if voters who have already have requested mail ballots instead show up to vote on Election Day, that could put unnecessary strain on the system.

“We want people to vote in whatever manner they are most comfortable,” Schmidt said Monday during an an Inquirer LIVE conversation on voting. “That being said, they should be mindful of the decisions that they’re making.”

Voters who have requested mail ballots can still vote in person on Nov. 3 by bringing their ballot and envelopes with them, handing them over to poll workers to be voided, and then voting on a machine. But if voters don’t bring all those materials to the polls, they must vote on a provisional ballot, which will not be counted until election officials determine later that the voter is eligible and hasn’t already voted.

Oona Goodin-Smith

3:39 PM - October 20, 2020
3:39 PM - October 20, 2020

Obama drive-in rally to be held at Citizens Bank Park, city officials say

Former President Barack Obama’s drive-in rally for Joe Biden will be held at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday evening, according to city officials.

Acting Managing Director Tumar Alexander said the city is planning for a “nighttime drive in event at Citizens Bank Park," and is working with federal officials and the Secret Service to provide security.

Alexander did not disclose an exact start time or other details about the event.

“I think the Biden campaign will probably release more details,” he said.

Mayor Jim Kenney said he believes that he will get to participate in the rally.

“I’m hoping I am," Kenney said Tuesday when asked during a virtual news conference if he would attend. "And I’m looking forward to seeing my president again.”

Laura McCrystal

3:07 PM - October 20, 2020
3:07 PM - October 20, 2020

Follow the money: The 2 most competitive congressional races in Pennsylvania

Two weeks before Election Day, a review of campaign advertising spending suggests there are really only two highly competitive congressional races in Pennsylvania.

The parties are pouring the most money into the 10th District in the south-central part of the state, where Republican Rep. Scott Perry is facing a challenge from Democrat Eugene DePasquale, the state auditor general. Since Sept. 1, the campaigns and outside groups have spent a total of $6.8 million on television and radio advertising, according to the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

That’s more than the total combined advertising budget in the Lehigh Valley-based 7th District and the Northeastern Pennsylvania-based 8th District, where campaigns and outside groups have spent $6.4 million over the same time period. At the outset of the campaign, Republicans thought they had a shot at flipping those Democratic-held seats. That’s not looking very likely right now, as Democrats lead in the polls and are outspending their rivals.

The second battleground is in the Bucks County-based 1st District, where Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is seeking another term against Democrat Christina Finello. TV and radio advertising there has totaled $5.3 million since Sept. 1, with the GOP holding a big edge.

GOP groups have reserved $3.4 million in airtime over the next two weeks, almost triple the $1.2 million booked by Democrats.

The Western Pennsylvania-based 17th District, where Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb is running against Republican Sean Parnell, is also attracting less ad spending than might have been expected. Democrats have spent $1.8 million there since Sept. 1, double the GOP budget.

Andrew Seidman

2:50 PM - October 20, 2020
2:50 PM - October 20, 2020

64% of all mail ballots in Pa. have been requested by Democrats

Here are the latest figures from state officials on mail ballots:

Ballots requested:

Democrats have requested about 1.8 million mail ballots from county election officials as of Tuesday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. That’s 64% of the 2.8 million requested in total. Republicans have requested about 702,000 ballots, or 25%, and voters unaffiliated with either party have requested the remaining 11%.

Ballots mailed:

Counties have printed and mailed 2.77 million ballots — almost all of those requested by voters so far. More than 430,000 were mailed in the last week.

Ballots returned:

Just over 1 million voters have returned their mail ballots to election officials, accounting for about 37% of the ballots that have been mailed out.

— Andrew Seidman

1:00 PM - October 20, 2020
1:00 PM - October 20, 2020

Melania Trump to skip Pennsylvania rally due to cough

First lady Melania Trump, wearing a facemask, walks towards her seat for the during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Julio Cortez / AP
First lady Melania Trump, wearing a facemask, walks towards her seat for the during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.

It turns out Melania Trump won’t be coming to Pennsylvania Tuesday after all.

The First Lady was expected to return to the campaign trail for President Donald Trump’s rally in Erie Tuesday night, but she has a lingering cough after contracting the coronavirus and won’t travel, the Associated Press reported, citing Melania Trump’s chief of staff.

The aide, Stephanie Grisham, said the First Lady continues to feel better but is skipping the event out of an abundance of caution.

Melania Trump’s last public appearance was at the Sept. 29 presidential debate in Ohio, AP reported. The First Lady has not been on the campaign trail in more than a year, NBC News reported.

— Jonathan Tamari

11:40 AM - October 20, 2020
11:40 AM - October 20, 2020

Pa. Department of State reports record high number of registered voters

Pennsylvania has surpassed more than 9 million registered voters, reaching what the Pennsylvania Department of State believes is a record high.

Of the registered voters, 4.2 million, or nearly 47%, are Democrats; 3.5 million, or about 39% are Republicans; and nearly 10% have no affiliation. All other voters make up 4.5%.

In Philadelphia, more than 1.1 million residents are now registered to vote, the highest number of registered voters in the city since 1984, Commissioner Al Schmidt announced Tuesday.

Election Day is two weeks from today. Unsure how to vote in Pennsylvania this year? Check out our guide here.

— Ellie Silverman

11:40 AM - October 20, 2020
11:40 AM - October 20, 2020

Philly police commissioner says city will be prepared for potential unrest on Election Day

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw speaks a press conference at the Police Administration Building in Philadelphia, on October 6, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw speaks a press conference at the Police Administration Building in Philadelphia, on October 6, 2020.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Tuesday that she was not aware of any specific threats of possible violence connected to the upcoming election, but that her department was continuing to work with a host of agencies in order to respond to potential unrest.

Testifying before City Council during an unrelated committee hearing, Outlaw said her agency was working with the District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other law enforcement and city agencies to plan for a variety of possible scenarios. Without offering specifics, she said the department was preparing for additional staff to be available.

She also said it was possible that the election could pass without significant incident, saying: “It might be Y2K all over again.”

City officials have been working together for weeks to plan for a host of concerning scenarios around the election.

Philadelphia Managing Director Tumar Alexander told Council Tuesday that city officials are meeting up to three times a week to ensure voting safety and operations, and learning from agencies in other jurisdictions about how they have planned for election unrest.

— Chris Palmer

10:50 AM - October 20, 2020
10:50 AM - October 20, 2020

Delaware County opens more than 30 ballot drop boxes

More than 30 ballot drop boxes throughout Delaware County are open today for county voters to drop off their mail-in/absentee ballots, no postage required, with two weeks left until Election Day.

The county’s Bureau of Elections said these boxes, which look similar to the blue USPS mail drop boxes, are secure, under 24/7 surveillance, and have large red, white and blue signage that says: “Official Ballot Drop Box” and “Delaware County Board of Elections.” Each box also has the official Delaware County Seal.

Most boxes will be accessible 24/7 through 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, the county said. However, some have limited hours because they are located inside municipal buildings.

— Ellie Silverman

10:45 AM - October 20, 2020
10:45 AM - October 20, 2020

Mom of West Chester teen killed in road rage incident pushes for Democrats to flip Pa. legislature

Michelle Roberson holds a photograph of her daughter Bianca, who was murdered at age 18 by a white man in 2017.
Michelle Gustafson / For The Washington Post
Michelle Roberson holds a photograph of her daughter Bianca, who was murdered at age 18 by a white man in 2017.

The mother of an 18-year-old West Chester woman who was shot and killed in a 2017 road rage incident is urging voters in competitive state legislative districts across Pennsylvania to vote for Democrats running against Republicans who have opposed stricter gun laws.

The political arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group co-founded by the billionaire former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, is spending $70,000 on direct mail featuring a letter written by Michelle Roberson. Her daughter, Bianca Nikol Roberson, was shot in the head while driving home from a shopping trip for school supplies. She was about to start her freshman year of college.

“I miss Bianca more than I can express. I mourn for the opportunities I won’t get to have, like watching my baby girl grow into adulthood,” Michelle Roberson writes in the letter. She says she has advocated “for stronger gun laws at the Pennsylvania state house more times than I can count,” but that Republicans “have refused to take up gun safety legislation like a red flag law that would keep guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others.”

“Now, I’m giving my energy to the candidates who will join me in my fight, not stand in my way,” she writes.

Everytown is mailing the letter to voters in 15 state House and Senate districts as part of its effort to help Democrats win control of both chambers of the legislature.

— Andrew Seidman

10:00 AM - October 20, 2020
10:00 AM - October 20, 2020

Obama to hold ‘drive-in’ rally for Biden in Philly tomorrow

In this image from video, former President Barack Obama speaks from Philadelphia during the third night of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.
/ AP
In this image from video, former President Barack Obama speaks from Philadelphia during the third night of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.

Former President Barack Obama’s appearance in Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon will be a drive-in car rally.

It’s his first in-person campaign event anywhere for the presidential election this year, Joe Biden’s campaign said. He will speak to the importance of early voting and will specifically address Black voters, especially Black men, the campaign said.

Due to coronavirus restrictions the event will be ticketed, without public access. The Biden campaign will offer a limited number of tickets to supporters through local campaign officials. It will also be live-streamed on the Biden campaign’s website.

No details about location or timing have been released.

Black voters make up approximately 10% of Pennsylvania’s electorate. While they are expected to overwhelmingly back Biden, whether or not they come out to support him at even greater levels than they did for Obama could help determine who wins Pennsylvania — and the presidency.

— Julia Terruso

9:00 AM - October 20, 2020
9:00 AM - October 20, 2020

Trump did well in Bucks County in 2016, but there are signs his support has slipped

Part of a trump caravan that took place from Newtown to Doylestown, in Pennsylvania, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.
Nancy Rokos / Bucks County Courier Times
Part of a trump caravan that took place from Newtown to Doylestown, in Pennsylvania, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by about 188,000 votes, or 14 percentage points, in Philadelphia’s four collar counties. But Trump held his own in Bucks, losing by less than 1 percentage point as he went on to carry the crucial swing state by a similarly narrow margin.

Bucks County has been a perennial battleground in presidential races, and demographically, it hews closer to Trump’s electoral strengths: It’s the whitest of the four counties, and it has the second-smallest share of residents who graduated from college, after Delaware County.

Democrats have made historic gains across the region since 2017, but the Bucks County GOP has fared better than its counterparts in the other suburban counties, managing to hold onto a number of legislative seats and other offices.

Yet, for all the public enthusiasm for Trump, some Republicans see signs that the president’s support has slipped even in Bucks.

In July, Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s campaign released the results of an internal poll showing he had a double-digit lead over Democrat Christina Finello — even as Trump trailed Joe Biden by 9 points. Fitzpatrick represents the 1st Congressional District, which spans all of Bucks County and a small slice of Montgomery County. Fitzpatrick has said he won’t decide who to support for president until he votes.

And two surveys commissioned by Democrats this month found Biden leading Trump by double-digits in the district, which Clinton carried by 2 points, with Fitzpatrick and Finello locked in a dead heat.

Democrats are hoping a strong showing by Biden will help lift candidates down-ballot, as they try to oust Fitzpatrick, a longtime target who has held his seat by pitching himself as a moderate, and flip a few state House seats. Democrats need a net gain of nine seats to win control of the chamber. The stakes are high, as the next General Assembly will draw new congressional and legislative maps in accordance with decennial redistricting.

— Andrew Seidman

7:45 AM - October 20, 2020
7:45 AM - October 20, 2020

We may know who won Pennsylvania by the morning after Election Day, Shapiro says

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro casts his ballot for the 2020 election in Norristown, Pa. on Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
KRISTON JAE BETHEL / For The Inquirer
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro casts his ballot for the 2020 election in Norristown, Pa. on Wednesday, October 14, 2020.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said he expects voters to know the outcome of the presidential election in the commonwealth by the morning after Election Day.

Shapiro, speaking on CNN Monday night, admitted Pennsylvania suffered through logistical problems during the primary, caused by a significant increase in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. But since then, Shapiro said counties have prepared for Election Day by purchasing new machinery and getting enough personnel in place to handle the increase of mail-in ballots.

“There going to be able to begin processing these ballots at 7 a.m. relatively quickly,” Shapiro said. “And so while we might not know the exact final numbers for days, I think based on the precincts reporting and a good chunk of those mail-in ballots that are being counted, you’re going to have a pretty good idea, maybe in the early morning hours of the next day. ”

On Monday, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar told Spotlight PA an “overwhelming majority” of votes will be counted by Friday after Election Day, and that counting would go even faster if state lawmakers allowed counties to begin processing mail-in ballots before Nov. 3.

“It’s so rare that you have a circumstance like this where you have an obvious solution that’s legislative, it costs nothing, it completely solves the problem and it has zero negative side effects,” Boockvar said

Shapiro also commented on the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Pennsylvania’s three-day extension for accepting mail-in ballots, calling it a “win” for democracy because voters “can continue to have confidence that as long as their ballot is postmarked before 8 p.m. on Election Day, that it will be counted in this election. ”

“What’s clear is its yet another loss that’s piled up for Donald Trump and his enablers, who keep on attacking our laws here in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - October 20, 2020
7:30 AM - October 20, 2020

1 in 6 Pennsylvania voters has a disability. Why don’t candidates campaign for their support?

Zachary Lewis posed for a portrait outside o his home in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Lewis is a leader for disability rights group Philly ADAPT.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Zachary Lewis posed for a portrait outside o his home in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Lewis is a leader for disability rights group Philly ADAPT.

People with disabilities have the potential to be a powerful voting bloc, research shows. More than 38 million people with disabilities are eligible to vote — about 16% of the American electorate, according to a September Rutgers University study. In Pennsylvania, a pivotal swing state that could determine who wins the White House, people with disabilities represent more than 17% of the electorate.

But the electoral power of these voters has long gone untapped. Candidates often don’t announce plans to address issues people with disabilities face, like unequal access to housing, health care, and employment. And people with disabilities vote at slightly lower rates — the product of physical barriers to access and socio-economic challenges.

The disabled community is diverse in race, age, and type of disability. And since disabled Americans fall into various other voting blocs, it can be difficult to track how they vote.

“We are Republicans, we are Democrats, we are the activist community,” said Gregg Beratan, a co-creator of #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan viral campaign that connects disabled social media users to politicians and works to increase voter turnout.

“If you come after the disabled community, if you consider our issues and how issues affect us, then you can turn the tide of an election,” he said.

7:20 AM - October 20, 2020
7:20 AM - October 20, 2020

What’s happening on the Pennsylvania campaign trail this week

President Donald Trump, seen here at a rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown Oct. 13, 2020, will hold a rally in Erie, Pa. Tuesday night.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
President Donald Trump, seen here at a rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown Oct. 13, 2020, will hold a rally in Erie, Pa. Tuesday night.

President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama will both campaign in Pennsylvania over the next two days, setting up a major contrast that suggests both parties still see the state as crucial to determining the winner.

Trump is rallying in Erie on Tuesday night, returning to one of the key swing counties that helped deliver his upset victory in 2016. Obama is coming to Philadelphia on Wednesday to rally Democrats in their biggest stronghold. Second Lady Karen Pence is stopping in Lancaster County on Wednesday.

Those visits are the latest in a series of campaign events that have brought a stream of key figures to Pennsylvania recently. Vice President Mike Pence and Jill Biden were each in the state Monday. Eric Trump; Sen. Cory Booker; Andrew Yang; and Doug Emhoff, husband of Sen. Kamala Harris, have also visited in the last four days. Here’s what’s coming up this week (so far):

  • Tuesday: President Trump, Erie (7 p.m.)
  • Wednesday: Karen Pence, Mount Joy (noon)
  • Wednesday: Barack Obama, Philadelphia (time not yet announced)

— Jonathan Tamari

7:00 AM - October 20, 2020
7:00 AM - October 20, 2020

Tuesday morning roundup

  • In Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania, people are volunteering in record numbers to be poll workers — many of them younger and signing up for the first time.
  • Helping the 100,000 Pennsylvanians who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities vote could be a “logistical nightmare,” advocates worry.
  • Eroding support among white women and seniors could make it difficult for President Donald Trump to win Pennsylvania.
  • Both Trump and Biden will have their microphones muted during some parts of Thursday’s debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday.