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Biden, Trump campaign in working-class Pennsylvania

The demographics and the economy of Pennsylvania, which voted for President Trump in 2016 and is also the home state for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, have been changing. But jobs are still one of the biggest issues in the battleground state. WHYY reporter Katie Meyer joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss how the two campaigns are facing off ahead of the polls.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the state of play here in swing state Pennsylvania I spoke with public media partner WHYY's political reporter Katie Meyer.

    So, Katie, how have the demographics of Pennsylvania been changing? And do either candidate — Does either candidate have an advantage?

  • Katie Meyer:

    So it's been getting less white. And so specifically, we've seen notable increases in the number of Latino people living in Pennsylvania. The number of, sort of, demographers, we'll call them white non-college voters, which is a large portion of President Trump's base, has been declining in Pennsylvania. And that, of course, translates into differences in how people are voting.

    But I always like to couch that — and not new immigrants to the U.S. — which is what we're seeing in Pennsylvania. It takes time for those populations to start voting in great numbers. And so that is always something where we see these demographic shifts, but they don't translate right away into changes in how the electorate behaves.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So how have the campaigns positioned themselves and what are their key driving messages to try to make sure that their base of registered voters does show up?

  • Katie Meyer:

    In Joe Biden's case you know, he grew up in Scranton. He left when he was 10. But it is a really big part of and always has been a big part of his political positioning of himself. So, you know, you saw in 2008 when President Obama introduced him at the DNC, he called him the scrappy kid from Scranton, and that's a line that they still use today. And so that, you know, is notable symbolic positioning for Biden.

    Scranton also was sort of in the heart of an area where Trump did really well in 2016. So that's northeastern Pennsylvania. Traditionally, it had been a center of union support, you know, northeast Pennsylvania and western Pennsylvania. You tended to see that strong working class, historically blue areas. And Trump made really big inroads there. So for his part, he is also trying to, one, discredit Biden's Pennsylvania roots and say, you know, I am the person who you voted for in great numbers in 2016. And, you know, he wants to maintain that level of support.

    So for Trump, it's about sort of shoring up margins in areas like the sort of more working-class northeast and western parts of the state and also in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, areas where he did OK, but not as well as other Republicans have done. And so those are going to be really big factors.

    Can he get more support in those areas where he did well? Can he get better support in areas where he was a little bit more middle?

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I'm assuming that jobs are on top of the minds of people in Pennsylvania, especially after the coronavirus. How's the local economy doing? Have they felt relief?

  • Katie Meyer:

    I mean, jobs had been top-of-mind in Pennsylvania for a long time, and not just because of the coronavirus. We're a state with a changing economy. So, you know, for decades manufacturing has been in decline here and really nothing has risen to take its place.

    One of the biggest and most rapidly rising sectors here is, you know, consumer services, customer service. And those are often jobs that don't pay very well. So you'll see Joe Biden saying things like, we need to raise the minimum wage, we need to strengthen unions in this state.

    Whereas you see Trump saying, I'm going to bring back mining and manufacturing and pointing to a couple of specific examples of factories that have either come to Pennsylvania or are still in Pennsylvania. So certainly jobs is a big, big issue.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Katie Meyer from WHYY. Thanks so much.

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