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Presidential candidates round off campaigns in hotly-contested Keystone State


Photo by Jamie Wiggan

Supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden gather in an overflow parking lot behind an invite-only drive-in event on Pittsburgh’s North Shore Nov. 2.



By Jamie Wiggan


-Campaigns-


The eyes of the world were fixed upon Western Pennsylvania Saturday morning, as final ballots were tallied and outstanding mail-in votes cast in Allegheny County were expected to determine the outcome of the presidential election for the state and also the nation.


A small batch of ballots tabulated in Philadelphia in fact tipped the scales to a point where major media outlets called the race in favor of Joe Biden, but they were closely sandwiched between two clusters announced from Allegheny County.


Leading up to the vote, the area was targeted by both candidates, who vied for

the state’s 20 electoral college votes as they rounded off their campaigns with final stops in the Pittsburgh region.


“Eighteen months ago, we kicked off the campaign at Teamsters Local 249 right here in Pittsburgh,” Democratic nominee and apparent President-Elect Joe Biden said during a drive-in rally outside Heinz Field on Nov. 2. “I chose Western Pennsylvania for my first stop as a candidate and now for my last stop before election day — because you represent the backbone of this country.”


Before stumping in the Northshore late that evening, Biden spent the day crisscrossing the region, meeting with union workers in Beaver County early afternoon and later leading a drive-in event in Homewood.


President Donald Trump meanwhile honed in on Western Pennsylvania Oct. 31, where he led a large outdoor rally in Butler County, following several stops in the eastern part of the state.


While Biden whirred around the Steel City on Nov. 2, Vice President Mike Pence touched down both in Latrobe and Erie. Trump made a final stop in the Scranton area before dashing off to other key states including Michigan and Wisconsin.


Throughout his 40-minute address in Pittsburgh’s North Shore, Biden made frequent appeals to working and middle-class voters, who he said were being left behind under Trump’s economy.


“I warn you all, if I’m elected you’re gonna see the most pro-union president in American history sitting in the White House,” he said.


During their trips to the region, both candidates voiced keen support for manufacturing — which sustains more than 80,000 Pittsburgh area workers —and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), an industry highly concentrated in Western Pennsylvania.


Speaking to the thousands gathered in Butler County, Trump announced as “breaking news” the signing of a White House memoranda drumming up support for the energy industry.

“Moments ago I signed an order to protect Pennsylvania fracking and block any effort to undermine energy production in your state,” he said.


The memo in question does not give any legal protection to fracking firms, but instead calls for a report into the economic benefits of the energy industry in an effort to inform federal policy.


At a campaign stop in Moon six weeks earlier, Trump stuck to similar themes, reiterating his familiar refrain, “I represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”


There, he also took credit for keeping the region’s few remaining steel mills in business and vowed to continue supporting coal production.


Laying out his contrasting approach, Biden said he plans to apply “American ingenuity” to the manufacturing industry in a bid to simultaneously tackle climate change while boosting manufacturing jobs. He also denounced Trump’s claims he intends to eliminate fracking in Pennsylvania.


“Let me be clear, I will not ban fracking in Pennsylvania, I’ll protect those jobs, period,” Biden said.


For six straight election cycles following George H. W. Bush’s 1988 victory, the Keystone State pledged its votes to Democratic presidential candidates and was thought of as dependably blue until Trump flipped it four years ago. Trump’s narrow margin of victory in 2016 indicated the state could go either way this year, and both campaigns invested heavily here.


With a few outstanding ballots to be tallied and several unresolved lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team, Biden currently leads by about 50,000 votes. The Associated Press and other sources declared Biden the winner of the contest Nov. 7.

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