Low Turnout or High, New Poll Shows Pennsylvania Going Blue

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden salutes after speaking at a Monday rally in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — Joe Biden has a slight lead over President Donald Trump in the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania, according to Monday poll numbers from Monmouth University.

The high-turnout model shows Biden leading the president 51% to 44% among the state’s likely voters. But even if a large number of ballots are rejected, Monmouth predict that Biden will lead Trump 50% to 45% in a low-turnout scenario. 

Pennsylvania has been set to accept mail-in ballots that arrive at polling places as late as Friday, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Republicans are challenging the deadline extension, however, and the Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will hear the case.

Monday marked the first day of arguments at the court now that the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett has given conservatives a 6-3 majority.

Trump has called the high court’s refusal to rule out the extension a “terrible decision” and warned Sunday that his campaign will be “going in with our lawyers” when polls close in Pennsylvania on Election Day.

Given the president’s track record, however, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro showed little concern.

“FACT CHECK: Our elections are over when all the votes are counted,” Shapiro tweeted. “But if your lawyers want to try us, we’d be happy to defeat you in court one more time.”

The Trump administration has been hit with an injunction against its Postal Service policy changes in another case with Shapiro at the helm, and the state Supreme Court kept the Election Day extensions in place with a 5-2 ruling.

Both presidential candidates have been campaigning heavily in Pennsylvania in the days leading up to the election, and this weekend was no different with campaign events for Trump in the suburbs and Biden in Philadelphia. Biden is continuing his Pennsylvania campaign with stops in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Monday.

In the 2016 race, Pennsylvania was one of six purple states — along with Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida — that tipped to Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“All eyes have been on the Keystone State from the start,” explained Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, alongside Monday’s poll. “Pennsylvania voters may have responded more than most to key events, such as the conventions and the debates. This potential for movement is one reason why both campaigns have spent so much time there.”

Monmouth found that one of Biden’s key advantages over Trump is that likely voters have more trust in him to handle the pandemic. Biden also leads Trump with younger voters and voters of color. Trump, meanwhile, has seen gains among senior voters and holds the lead with white voters without a four-year college degree.

The poll noted that Pennsylvania’s 10 swing counties, where the winning margin for either Trump or Clinton was less than 10 points, will likely be close again this year. These 10 counties, which run from west of Philadelphia to the northeast region of the state, poll at 49% for Trump and 45% for Biden. 

“Northeast Pennsylvania and other swing areas of the state are as hotly contested as they were four years ago,” Murray noted, adding that Biden’s advantage persists regardless. “Even without an advantage in this region, Biden is able to hold a statewide lead on the back of strong support in core blue areas along with his ability to nibble away at Trump’s margins in deep red areas.”

Biden holds a 40-point lead, 67% to 27%, over Trump among registered voters in four of the state’s large Democratic counties — all of which Clinton won in 2016. Trump holds a 20-point lead, 57% to 37% in the counties he won by a large margin in 2016.

In the last 12 presidential elections, Pennsylvania has voted with the winning candidate in 10. It leaned blue, out of sync with national results, in both elections won by George W. Bush. 

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