President Donald Trump kicked off his re-election campaign tonight in Florida, a state, like Pennsylvania, expected to be a key battleground in his bid to remain in the White House.
There are six key states that will likely determine the winner in 2020 — Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College.
Of those, Florida has the most electoral votes with 29, and Pennsylvania has the second most with 20, he said.
Madonna said Trump’s decision to launch his campaign in Florida may also have been influenced by the fact that the president was just in Pennsylvania less than a month ago. Trump visited Lycoming County in May to support then-state Rep. Fred Keller before the special election in which the Republican Keller was elected to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, who abruptly retired in January.
It’s clear both Trump and the Democrats vying to challenge him recognize the importance of winning in Pennsylvania, Madonna said. Not only has Trump visited the state, many of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination — Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke — have made campaign stops in Pennsylvania, he said.
Trump won Pennsylvania by 46,000 votes in 2016, becoming the first Republican to win the Keystone State since George H.W. Bush beat Democrat Michael Dukakis here in 1988.
Whether he can repeat that is unclear. Most polls show the president behind in head-to-head matchups against the leading contenders in the Democratic Party, Madonna said.
But Trump’s 2016 victory in Pennsylvania came as a surprise and “I’m not prepared to say that Trump can’t carry our state,” Madonna said.
Republicans are confident Trump will carry Pennsylvania again, said Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
“Plain and simple: President Donald Trump has delivered on his promises. Our economy is on fire, our military is stronger, America is respected on the world stage, and the future has never been more promising,” Gottesman said.
Democrats countered today that Trump’s policies haven’t paid off for most Pennsylvanians.
“As Donald Trump relaunches his campaign, Pennsylvanians are remembering what a failure the president has been for the commonwealth’s working families. His list of broken promises keeps growing, and the damaging effects of his reckless policies become clearer every day,” Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills said. “Trump promised better health care costs, a thriving workforce, and bigger paychecks — instead, he tried to gut protections for pre-existing conditions and gave handouts to his rich and powerful friends at the expense of working Pennsylvanians.”
Trump’s best bet to appeal to enough voters to win would be to focus on the strength of the economy, Madonna said.
What tack the president takes in the campaign will only become clear when it happens, he said.
“The only thing we can expect from Trump is the unexpected,” Madonna said.
John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.