Battleground Pennsylvania: Trump holds rally, Biden plans tax speech as rematch heats up

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Battleground Pennsylvania: Trump holds rally, Biden plans tax speech as rematch heats up

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Combination picture showing former US President Donald Trump attending the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, US, November 6, 2023 and US President Joe Biden participating in a meeting with Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 1, 2024. — Reuters pic

PHILADELPHIA, April 13 — Former US President Donald Trump heads to the battleground state of Pennsylvania today for a rally and a fundraiser just days before he is set to go on trial in New York over an alleged hush money scheme.

He will be closely followed by President Joe Biden, who will make three Pennsylvania stops next week, speaking first in his hometown of Scranton about his push to reform the US tax code.

With 19 electoral votes - one of the highest counts among all 50 states — and voters that swing between backing Democrats like Biden and Republicans like Trump, Pennsylvania is a top prize in the 2024 presidential election and is likely to see many more visits in coming months.

Biden won Pennsylvania in 2020 by less than 1.5 per cent, or roughly 80,000 votes, after Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by less than 45,000 votes in 2016. State opinion polls taken in March swing from showing Biden with a 10-percentage-point lead to Trump up 4 points, election data site FiveThirtyEight shows.

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Democrats are betting on a strong turnout in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, a region that accounts for 33 per cent of all voting registrations, to offset losses throughout much of the rest of the state. Trump and Republicans are looking to run up huge margins in less populous, largely white counties to offset urban votes.

Biden, who has been to Pennsylvania four times so far this year, will also travel to the Pittsburgh area and Philadelphia over three days, the White House said yesterday.

Trump is expected to be in Manhattan on Monday for the beginning of his first criminal trial, a case involving hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. The trial could last several weeks.

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Trump's Saturday rally at Schnecksville Fire Hall targets the Lehigh Valley, a mix of Rust Belt cities, sprawling suburbs and rural towns. It includes Northampton County, one of two counties Biden flipped in 2020, which has long been a reliable bellwether of statewide success.

“If you win Northampton County, you are likely to win the state. It's that important of a location,” Chris Borick, a political science professor at Pennsylvania's Muhlenberg University, said of Trump's rally.

The former president will attend a fundraiser before his rally in Bucks County, another bellwether region that Biden narrowly won in 2020. The event is hosted by Jim Worthington, a wealthy gym owner who has pressured Trump to stop criticising mail-in voting. Roughly 200 people are expected, and the event should generate several million dollars, according to two sources familiar with the event.

It will be a “razor-thin race,” Borick predicted.

Combination picture showing U.S. President Joe Biden delivering remarks on lowering costs for American families, in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, March 19, 2024 and Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump taking the stage during a campaign rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire, US, January 16, 2024. — Reuters pic

Combination picture showing U.S. President Joe Biden delivering remarks on lowering costs for American families, in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, March 19, 2024 and Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump taking the stage during a campaign rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire, US, January 16, 2024. — Reuters pic

Senate race, population declines

Pennsylvania is a sprawling, politically complex place where voters historically have often elevated consensus-minded state-wide candidates, a history that could affect the closely watched US Senate race.

Incumbent Bob Casey, a Democrat, will battle Republican Dave McCormick, a wealthy former hedge fund executive, one of just a handful of races in 2024 that will decide who controls the Senate.

Population shifts could also affect the race. Pennsylvania's population topped 13 million in 2021, but has declined in the two ensuing years, finishing at 12.96 million people last year. Declines since 2020 have come from counties that Biden won, according to an analysis by Franklin & Marshall College.

Democrats continue to lose their voting registration advantage in the state as they face defections from rural and blue-collar voters, who are joining Republicans or registering as unaffiliated, according to state voter data.

In 2020, Democrats held a roughly 700,000-voter registration advantage, but that has narrowed to 400,000 this year as Democratic voters switched to unaffiliated.

The defections are due to voters who supported Republican candidates but never bothered to change their party status until now, some political analysts believe. — Reuters

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