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.

It’s President Donald Trump’s turn on the big stage, and we’re watching how his Republican convention might play in Pennsylvania. Joe Biden is doing his own counter-programming, rolling out a list of GOP dissenters who now back him — including three former congressmen from the state.

And the political battle over how votes will be cast and counted in a pandemic continues with a new election bill proposed by Republicans in Harrisburg.

As always, we want to hear from you. Email us at election@inquirer.com.

— Julia Terruso, Andrew Seidman (@JuliaTerruso, @AndrewSeidman, election@inquirer.com)

Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters after arriving at Asheville Regional Airport on Monday in Fletcher, N.C.
Evan Vucci / AP
Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters after arriving at Asheville Regional Airport on Monday in Fletcher, N.C.

‘A cornucopia of political messages’

This time last month, we examined how Trump has fallen behind Biden in Pennsylvania. Poll after poll showed Biden with a sizable, consistent, but hardly insurmountable lead, as voters faulted Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the president’s best case for reelection, a strong economy, continued to struggle.

The state of the pandemic and the economy remain largely unchanged. The race is expected to tighten. And Trump is now in the midst of a week of convention programming that offers one of his only chances to change the trajectory of the campaign. So how, we wondered, will he use this moment to appeal to voters in states like Pennsylvania, which he won by less than 1 percentage point in 2016?

So far, it seems like an a la carte menu.

GOP-leaning suburban voters uncomfortable with Trump’s handling of racial issues might be comforted after watching him pardon a Black convicted felon who turned his life around and preside over a naturalization ceremony for five immigrants. That could resonate outside Philadelphia, where Republicans running for reelection are trying to distance themselves from Trump’s harder edges. (Doing all this at the White House is likely a violation of the Hatch Act, but that’s a separate story.)

Loyal Fox News viewers who stand with Trump no matter what were likely already well acquainted with Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who brandished their guns at Black Lives Matter activists demonstrating peacefully near their home in June. Addressing the convention Monday, they recounted how a “Marxist activist” led a “mob” near their house and warned the same thing could “just as easily happen to any of you.”

On Tuesday, the speakers included John Peterson, a steel executive who praised Trump's trade policies, and Robert Vlaisavljevich, a Democratic mayor in Minnesota. They said Trump is the best bet to revive the economy.

In other words, something for everyone.

“It’s been a cornucopia of political messages and I think it’s been very successful thus far,” Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania GOP strategist, told us.

All that may well be overshadowed by Trump, who is appearing every night. And it may be easier for Republicans to persuade undecided voters that Biden and the Democrats are unacceptable than it is to change minds about Trump.

To that end, Sean Parnell, a western Pennsylvania Republican running against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, said Monday at the RNC that Democrats had turned their back on “hard working, law abiding Americans.”

“The party of Harry Truman,” he said, has become “the party of hedge fund managers, Hollywood celebrities, tech moguls and academia — bloated with contempt for middle America.”

Cynthia Greer

Answering your questions about voting

Is it better to vote by mail or in person?

It’s up to you. A vote cast by mail is worth the same as a vote cast in person.

There are other concerns you might consider, though, especially this year. Remember that not everyone has equal access to voting by mail or in person, such as if a disability prevents you from easily voting in person.

You might also prefer the flexibility and convenience of voting by mail, including the ability to sit with your ballot and research candidates, and to choose the best time for you to fill out your ballot before Election Day.

Is it safer to vote by mail or in person?

From a COVID-19 health risk perspective, voting by mail is safer because it has less risk of exposure than voting in person, though those risks can be minimized by social distancing and wearing a mask. Elections officials plan to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.

That said, the greatest risk is not to voters but to the poll workers who spend the entire day checking in and helping hundreds of people, usually indoors. You might choose to vote by mail not because of your own health risk but because it lowers the risk for poll workers and voters who do show up in person.

— Jonathan Lai (@Elaijuh)

What we’re paying attention to

Overheard on the campaign trail

“I’m proud to cast Pennsylvania’s 88 votes for the president that will make sure we kneel when we pray and stand for the flag”

— Lou Barletta, former Pennsylvania congressman, during the Republican National Convention roll call vote Monday in Charlotte, N.C.

Former Pennsylvania Superior Court judge Cheryl Lynn Allen was featured at the Republican National Convention last night.
MSNBC SCREENSHOT
Former Pennsylvania Superior Court judge Cheryl Lynn Allen was featured at the Republican National Convention last night.

Meet the Pa. judge featured at the RNC

If you watched the Republican convention last night, you saw a segment in which Vice President Mike Pence chatted with Trump supporters outside of Abraham Lincoln's childhood home. One of them was Cheryl Lynn Allen, the first Black woman elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2007. She ran unsuccessfully for Supreme Court in 2015 and then retired from the bench.

Allen was one of several Black Trump supporters who made a pitch for reelecting the president. “As a senior citizen, I know what racism feels like,” Allen said. “There are injustices but the way to deal with those injustices is for people to sit down across the table and talk and come up with solutions. I do believe President Trump is committed to that.”

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