Even the New York Times is starting to doubt whether polls showing Joe Biden handily winning Pennsylvania, the most critical state in the upcoming US election, which 'experts' claim could ultimately decide the outcome of the race.
President Trump's rallies in PA this week have notably blown out attendance at events held by his rival, former VP Joe Biden. The move has coincided with a late-breaking surge in the polls, something that will likely intensify amid the backlash to riots.
Still, the most recent reading from RCP has Biden ahead, but within an expanded margin of error that many polling experts have advised to apply this year.
To try and get a better handle on the situation, the NYT sent Shawn McCreesh, an editorial assistant for the Opinion Section who apparently grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs to explore how his former homeland, situated just outside Philadelphia, has become "Trump Country".
McCreesh spends most of the personal essay describing his encounters with Trump supporters at an unofficial "MAGA-themed" store in Bucks County. Personally, McCreesh finds it difficult to believe that Biden is up 13 points in PA: "Polls show Mr. Biden leading by five to 13 points, but I grew up around here and am dubious. This place — the land of hoagies and Bradley Cooper and Rocky Balboa worship and Tina Fey’s “Cousin Karen” accent — has transmogrified into Trumplandia."
"He has so much more support than in 2016, because it’s been four years of accomplishments," said Darinna Thompson, 49, a homemaker who was talking with a group of women outside the Trump Store. They were part of a caravan that had just encircled the Democrats' rally "to say bye-bye to Biden" and let his supporters know they were outnumbered.
But what really convinced McCreesh was a trip back to the neighborhood where he grew up in Hatboro where pro-Trump signs "sprout like weeds" in front of a preponderance of yards, or so it seemed.
On Sunday, I went back to visit the neighborhood I grew up in, in Hatboro, where the most febrile of Fox News talking points are in bloom on many of the front lawns. One house, belonging to Richard Gottshall, is in a league of its own. Hand-painted posters sprout like weeds from every corner of his yard. “We the people are tired of the dirty Demo-rats,” says one. “Liars idiots troublemakers news media as well the best is yet to come."
Mr. Gottshall, a retired carpenter and volunteer firefighter, said that some 20 like-minded people had congregated on his lawn that morning to show support for their candidate. His neighbor was not pleased about the gathering.
"The people across the street here, they’re Democrats,” said Mr. Gottshall. “They tried to outdo me — they had 29 signs. They called the police.” But, he added, “First Amendment."
Mr. Gottshall explained to me how the media was corrupt. I told him I grew up on the next street over. He offered me a hot dog. I asked him if posting signs calling his neighbors “rats” was crazy. “Not really, because it’s on television,” he pointed out. “Judge Jeanine, she calls them that. They don’t like it? That’s tough."
A few doors down was a pad with an even nuttier setup. Trump 2020 flags billowed in the wind and a digital sign crawled a message in the front window: “Bidens received millions of illegal money from China, Russia, Ukraine. Biden is a crook — should be locked up.” It belonged to — who else — Mr. Gottshall’s twin brother, William.
A couple unloading groceries in their driveway around the corner said that they planned to vote for Mr. Biden but were too intimidated to talk openly about it. The whole neighborhood, they said, seemed to be going for President Trump.
Is this yet another "blinking red" sign that the polls are "discombobulated" once again? McCreesh wondered. Adding another portent to the mix, the owner of Lochel's bakery in Hatboro, which has gained national prominence for the cookies it sells every four years themed around major candidates.
Enthusiasm from Trump voters has drawn people from as far away as West Virginia to buy the red cookies, the bakery owner said. No similar enthusiasm existed for Biden.
Lochel’s bakery in Hatboro has become an overnight Oracle of (Phila) Delphi, selling red “Trump 2020” and blue “Biden 2020” sugar cookies. Whichever cookie sells the most will predict how this area, and thus the state, and therefore the election, will turn. Supposedly.
The shop’s owner, Kathleen Lochel, says enthusiasm for the president has drawn people from as far as West Virginia. Eric Trump stopped by last week.
Ms. Lochel said Pennsylvania is unknowable. “If I was a gambling woman,” she said, “I wouldn’t gamble on this.” She doesn’t disclose her political views and said, with utmost seriousness, that “the bakery does not make an endorsement.”
So far, the count stands at 3,367 blue cookies, 18,241 red.
"I do think that Trump supporters are more competitive,” said Dan Rutledge, standing in line outside of the bakery in the spitting rain on Sunday. Mr. Rutledge, 44, a manager at a clinical research organization, was there to snag some red cookies. “I’m hopeful that he’ll win PA, but I don’t see it happening myself,” he said.
"Trump has turned so many people anti-him — he’s a little arrogant,” said Mr. Rutledge. But he “liked that in a leader.” He added, “It’s going to be closer than people say."
Believe it or not, the piece is a refreshing bit of "food for thought" from the NYT, which tends to skew overwhelmingly liberal, carefully producing news that doesn't challenge the "convictions" of its core audience (remember the Tom Cotton incident?).
For a more precise argument, JPM's Marko Kolanovic, the bank's top quant, crunched the numbers surrounding change in party affiliation nationwide and what it portends for the outcome of the race.