It really is all coming down to Pennsylvania. At least the campaigning is.
President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will blitz the state this weekend in the final days of one of the most charged presidential elections in memory, each trying to squeeze any final votes out of a state that could very well decide who wins the White House.
Trump will hold four rallies Saturday in a swing that will take him from the Philadelphia suburbs to Reading to Western Pennsylvania and back to the Central part of the state (Bucks, Berks, Butler, and Lycoming Counties, in that order). The next day Biden will give a speech in Philadelphia “to discuss bringing Americans together to address the crises facing the country and win the battle for the soul of the nation,” his campaign said.
And on Monday, the last day of campaigning before polls open Nov. 3, Biden, his wife, Jill, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will “fan out across all four corners of the state," the campaign said.
Trump will return that day to Luzerne County, in Northeast Pennsylvania, going back to the epicenter of his stunning 2016 victory.
“Pennsylvania is the center,” said Rep. Dwight Evans, a Philadelphia Democrat. He said of the candidates: “I mean, they live here.”
The events represent a final effort to leave no stone unturned — and no voter unreached — in a sprawling state that, in 2016, was decided by just 44,000 votes, or less than 1%.
The closing campaign swings will be something of a full circle moment for both candidates. Trump, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, was the first Republican to win the state since 1988, a signature victory that helped put him in the White House. He has returned often.
Biden, meanwhile, was born in Scranton, and even while representing Delaware was often referred to as Pennsylvania’s “third senator.” He held his first major campaign rally in Pittsburgh and put his headquarters in Philadelphia. Since the Democratic National Convention in August, he has made 11 trips to the state, according to a tally by NBC News. That’s more than double to any other state.
Biden has consistently led in public polling in Pennsylvania, but the race has stayed closer than in similar swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin. And Trump supporters are eager to show that the president’s support runs deeper than surveys reflect.
Rob Gleason, who chaired the Pennsylvania GOP during Trump’s 2016 victory, says he sees signs of another surprise win for the president.
“Right now it looks like déjà vu all over again,” he said. “There’s a lot more enthusiasm for the president in the areas he won in 2016.”
He derided Democrats' anemic “ground game,” or voter turnout program, saying the Trump campaign looks far stronger on that score.
If Biden wins Pennsylvania, Trump will face a narrow and difficult path to victory. Democrats rue that they let the state slip away last election and are eager to win it back.
Biden held a Zoom call Thursday night with Philadelphia elected officials and ward leaders, thanking them for their support, said Bob Brady, the city’s Democratic chairman and a former congressman. Officials brought their children on to see who they hope is the next president.
Brady predicted huge Democratic turnout in the city, and referred to Trump’s comment during a debate that “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
“Bad things are going to happen in Philadelphia,” Brady said, “bad things are going to happen to him.”
U.S. Rep. Fred Keller (R., Pa.) said it’s fitting Pennsylvania is in the spotlight.
“All eyes across the nation are on Pennsylvania,” Keller said. “When you look at [Trump and Biden], I think that the differences in their policies impact the commonwealth probably more than a lot of other states.”
He pointed to energy policy, a major sector in natural gas-rich Pennsylvania. Trump has promised to continue his agenda of cutting regulations for the natural gas and coal industries, while Biden has said he would gradually transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“There’s more enthusiasm in Pennsylvania now than I’ve seen in the past,” Keller said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm now for the president because the president kept his word."
The normally reserved Sen. Bob Casey, a close Biden ally and fellow Scrantonian, was unabashedly optimistic. He pointed to a string of strong Democratic election results in 2017, 2018, and 2019 as more indicative than any poll.
“You can see it in the data already. You can see it in places where he’s losing, you would expect him to lose, he’s losing by a much lower number than” Hillary Clinton did in 2016, Casey said.
But he also added a note of caution. “Donald Trump is by far the strongest Republican presidential candidate for Pennsylvania since Ronald Reagan.”
-Staff writers Julia Terruso and Sean Collins Walsh contributed to this article.