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Rural, Small-City Voters Key

A friend who is a keen observer of politics told me the other day that he is certain President Donald Trump will carry southwestern Pennsylvania in the Nov. 3 election. He knows this based on roadside signs he had observed during a drive through the region.

Based solely on the number of roadside signs he saw, Trump will win the region, he said.

Joe Biden will finish third.

Right behind Firewood for Sale.

In a way, that sums up the outlook for Nov. 3. If rural and small town voters — the kind with fireplaces and wood stoves — turn out for Trump as they did in 2016, he’ll win re-election. If they don’t, he’ll be overwhelmed by an urban blue wave.

Take a look at a map showing results of the 2016 balloting. At first glance, you may wonder how Hillary Clinton got more votes (65.8 million) than Trump (62.9) million. The map is an ocean of red for places where Trump won. Only a few specks of blue, for Clinton majorities, can be seen. Still, she managed to pull in 232 electoral college votes to Trump’s winning 306.

Trump pulled his 2016 win out because his strength in rural and smaller city precincts was enormous, giving him electoral votes from those states. Clinton won nearly all the big urban areas.

As I pointed out a few months after the 2016 election, it wouldn’t have taken much for Clinton to win more electoral votes. Trump won Pennsylvania by only 44,292 votes. He prevailed in Florida by just 112,911 votes. A few more big-city Clinton voters and a few less rural-area Trump voters in just those two states, and it would be Hillary running for re-election this year.

Recent public opinion polls in the two states indicate Trump and Biden are running neck-and-neck in Florida and Pennsylvania. Tuesday’s election may well turn on the two states.

COVID-19 is the big wild card this time around. At last count, about 60 million people had voted already, either through mail-in ballots or early in-person voting. It is entirely possible the two methods will account for a majority of votes this year.

Democrats likely to support Biden have been encouraged to vote by mail. People more likely to back Trump have been warned of the dangers of mail-in balloting. What happens if many Trump voters who shunned mail-in ballots somehow don’t make it to the polls on Tuesday?

So, who wins? Beats me. I wouldn’t want to bet on the outcome. But as in 2016, the bottom line is going to be whether rural and small-city voters turn out for Trump in numbers high enough to overcome energized big-city Biden voters.

On that, you can bet.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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