PHILADELPHIA (AP) – When President Donald Trump told the world that “bad things are happening in Philadelphia,” it was, in part, a rough assessment of his party’s struggle in the country’s sixth most populous city.
For decades, Philadelphia has been the cornerstone of the state’s democratic victories on the battlefield – producing a democratic margin so large that victory across the state has been a lasting one for most Republican presidential candidates.
But this is a long-running Trump, committed in 2016, who is trying to repeat once again. His contemptuous stage of contempt for the city of brotherly love, which quickly inspired memes and T-shirts, underscored the months-long efforts of his campaign to combat the blue tide that is beginning in the city.
The clash has provoked lawsuits and controversy from the state corps over mail voting and polling, and Democrats’ efforts have been described as voter suppression.
And that is when Trump has openly stated, without citing any evidence, that the only way he can lose Pennsylvania to former Vice President Joe Biden is through large-scale Democrat fraud in the city of 1.6 million.
But Trump can’t change the basic political math in the state: one in eight registered voters lives in Philadelphia, a city that continues to fetch ever-increasing margins, regularly casts one in five votes for Democratic presidential candidates, and encourages left-wing movement .
“Trump is right, ‘bad things happen in Philadelphia,’ especially for him,” said Philadelphia Democratic Party chairman Bob Brady. “And bad things will happen to him in Philadelphia on election day.”
Recent polls show that Trump and Biden competed in Pennsylvania, or Biden was well ahead of the state, which Trump won just over 44,000 votes – less than a percentage point – in 2016.
Trump’s victory was the first Republican presidential candidate since 1988, and it shocked Pennsylvania Democrats to the core.
In Philadelphia, Biden’s campaign places a strong emphasis on the election of blacks and Latinos and involves former President Barack Obama in the campaign. Trump’s campaign appeals to black and Latin American voters and hopes for even better results thanks to its white working-class base.
Brady predicted that Philadelphia would move the rest of Pennsylvania and provide Biden with a bigger margin of victory than the 475,000 she made for Hillary Clinton in 2016. This gap was slightly smaller than Obama’s historic margin in 2008 and 2012.
Biden’s campaign has several “voter activation” centers throughout the city, not to mention Biden’s headquarters.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has opened offices in the heavily black western Philadelphia and the strongly white northeast of Philadelphia.
Thanks to an old state law that has significantly expanded mail voting, people now have weeks to vote, and turnout is lively at recently opened election commissions across the city, where voters can fill out and cast ballots.
This gives hope to the Philadelphia Democrats, after the city’s predominantly black wards were not as strong in 2016 for Clinton as for Obama, including those who cast 10% fewer votes.
“The line has bypassed the quarter,” said Chris Rabb, a 70 percent black state official, about the recently opened polling station. “It’s been nothing I’ve seen since 2008 and I’ve been working on surveys for 16 years.”
In a city that makes up 42% of blacks, it is widely believed that Trump caused a racist outburst.
Breaking down specific questions about contract work for the Philadelphia Guard at an event this week, Dexter Ayres, a lifelong Democrat, said he had already voted for Biden in hopes of improving attitudes toward black people in America.
Some of his friends are skeptical that the vote will change anything. Ayres, who is Black, admitted that makes him wonder, “Wow, why did I vote?”
“But then I look at it this way, ‘Well, maybe my voice will change the situation,'” Ayres said. “I just pray and leave it in God’s hands.”
Sitting on her front porch in western Philadelphia this week, Democrat Latoya Ratcliffe said she would vote for Biden and see more enthusiasm in her district to vote for Trump than in 2016 for Hillary Clinton.
The defining issue for Ratcliff, who is black, is racism.
“They understand a little more about going out and voting,” said Ratcliffe, 39.
In northeastern Philadelphia, Trump has seen unexpectedly strong support from an area that has a reputation as a home for union members, police and firefighters. Republicans say they now expect even stronger support for Trump.
In some areas, there are glass Blue Back signs and flags with thin blue lines everywhere, the city’s union has backed Trump, and the firefighters ‘and paramedics’ union has also backed him, breaking Biden’s international association approval.
Leaving his Northeast home in Philadelphia recently to go shopping, lifelong Democrat Joe Dowling said he would vote for Trump after Clinton’s support four years ago. According to him, the problem that changed his mind was the violence after the death of George Floyd and the reaction against the police.
“It got out of hand,” said Dowling, 60, white. “There is no reason for anyone to despise the police.”
Democrats admit that they slipped in northeastern Philadelphia in 2016 – fluctuations of about 11,000 voters since 2012.
However, the territory was ceded to Democrats in 2018, and US representative Brendan Boyle, who represents it in Congress, said he expects Biden to do better there than Clinton.
He recalled a paper shredding event in his office last fall that was attended by hundreds of people in the parking lot of a plumbers’ union office in northeast Philadelphia.
“I was surprised by the animus about Trump, people who didn’t demand, saying, ‘We need to get him out of there, he’s a disaster,'” said Boyle, a Democrat. “And it was different. I didn’t hear that a few years ago.”
Stephen Lomas, a long-time registered Republican living between two Trump supporters in northeastern Philadelphia, said he would vote for Biden.
Lomas, 84, who is white, said that Trump and members of his administration “are destroying our faith in the system. … They are crazy scammers. They are almost traitors to our Constitution.”
Apart from postal voting, another difference in this presidential election is the network of united liberal issues and community groups in Philadelphia, organizers say, with a long-term focus on reaching people who are unlikely to vote in predominantly black and Latin American areas.
Brichim Douglas, vice president of Unite Here Local 274, a union of casino workers, caterers and hotels that supports Biden, said he conducted cavalry harder than ever before.
Douglas, 36, tells a personal story to anyone he meets who doesn’t plan to vote: he cares for the child of his 21-year-old niece Brianna, who died in September of a coronavirus.
“So I’m more focused on laser work than I was in 2016,” Douglas said.
Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Follow Mark Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter and Mike Catalini at www.twitter.com/mikecatalini
The AP Pre-Voting Guide gives you early voting, mail, or absentee voting facts from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020