To cover how Pennsylvania is shaping the 2020 election, The Philadelphia Inquirer has launched a new email newsletter. Every Wednesday, you’ll get reporting from counties across the state, insight into issues that impact you, fact checks on what candidates are saying, and more. You can sign up to get it in your inbox here. You can also view the web version of this email.
The final sprint is here.
Joe Biden was in Harrisburg on Labor Day, which marks the traditional start of the fall campaign. Vice President Mike Pence is back today, visiting Beaver and Westmoreland Counties. And Friday could see Biden and President Donald Trump cross paths: Both are visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville for the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
But while both campaigns are active on the ground (in very different ways), only one has been invading your TV screen. We’ll explain. We’ll also introduce you to 24 Pennsylvania voters who you’ll hear a lot from over the next couple months.
Asymmetrical warfare, on the ground and on TV
As Trump stood in front of Air Force One in an airport hangar in Westmoreland County, he took a moment to bask in the adulation of his supporters — and draw attention to the overflow crowd.
“We have thousands of people behind this hangar, and we’re trying to get 'em in,” Trump said last week during his Pennsylvania rally. “And I’d love to get 'em in.”
Trump compared his crowd with Biden’s stop the same day in Wisconsin: “There was nobody there.” (Biden met with the family of Jacob Blake, the Black man shot in the back seven times by a white Kenosha police officer.) It’s hardly a secret that Trump obsesses over crowd sizes, and we noted last week how only one campaign is going about things like there’s no pandemic. Biden continues to keep his events socially distanced.
But both campaigns have another way of reaching voters: TV advertising. And on this front, it’s Biden who’s been ubiquitous in recent weeks, with Trump nowhere to be seen.
Having spent so much of the cash it raised, Trump’s campaign halted all TV ads in Pennsylvania last month. Biden? His campaign spent a whopping $10 million on the airwaves, and another $5 million through Labor Day. That’s a $15 million to zero advantage over the course of about five weeks. And that could be a big deal in a state many strategists think could decide the winner.
The president did get some air support from outside Republican groups. But the dynamic is emblematic of the different ways Trump and Biden are campaigning during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump campaign says its field staff and volunteers are knocking on doors and basically operating in a pre-pandemic mode — in keeping with Trump’s message that the coronavirus is mostly a thing of the past, even as the U.S. death toll passed 190,000. Biden campaigned virtually through most of the summer, citing public health concerns. He has stepped up his travel schedule for the homestretch.
But don’t expect a Biden rally with thousands cheering him on anytime soon.
Answering your questions about voting
Can I vote in person after requesting to vote by mail?
Yes. If you’ve requested to vote by mail, you can bring your ballot with you and hand it over to poll workers to be voided. At that point, you’ll be allowed to vote on the machines as though you never requested a mail ballot at all.
If you don’t have your ballot with you, including if it didn’t arrive on time, you can still show up to the polls and vote on a provisional ballot, which is a paper ballot that is set aside and counted once it is clear you are eligible to vote.
How can I check my vote by mail status?
You can check your ballot status online, including whether your application has been approved, the ballot has been mailed, and whether it’s been received once you send it back. If you include your email address when applying to vote by mail, you should also get emails notifying you of changes to your ballot status. And you can always call your county office to check your status.
— Jonathan Lai (@Elaijuh)
What we’re paying attention to
💻 The Philadelphia Inquirer: 5 questions that will help decide the presidential race in Pennsylvania
💻 The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Philly suburbs aren’t the only suburbs where Democrats are on the rise
📰 The Times-Tribune: Lackawanna County election board authorizes use of drop boxes for mail ballots
📰 The Daily Local News: Mail ballot requests soar in Chester County
💻 270toWin: The Road to 270: Pennsylvania
💻 The Washington Post: The seven political states of Pennsylvania
Overheard on the campaign trail
“I wish I could vote for him every four years. Congress don’t have term limits, why should the guy at the top? He should be president for life.”
— Dawn Hoyman, 53, at Trump’s rally in Latrobe
Meet 24 voters who will inform our coverage
We want to understand, and serve, all the voters of Pennsylvania. So we’ve unveiled a new project: The Inquirer’s Election 2020 Roundtable.
The Roundtable brings together 24 voters from all over Pennsylvania for a series of open, virtual conversations about what matters most to them. We’ll talk about the issues. We’ll talk about the candidates. We’ll ask them what they want to talk about. We’ll endeavor to answer their questions — and share those answers with you.
This is even more important now, when the pandemic has made it more difficult for us to meet voters where they work, where they play, where they shop, and where they live.
Our Roundtable includes Democrats, Republicans, and independents. They are from Scranton and Allentown, Williamsport and Easton, Bloomsburg and Gettysburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. They are Black, white, Asian, and Latino. Some have consistently voted for Democrats or Republicans in recent presidential elections. Others have voted for both. Some supported Barack Obama before casting a ballot for Donald Trump. Some backed Mitt Romney before pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton. Some plan to vote for Trump. Some plan to vote for Joe Biden. Some are undecided.