When one regularly posts to a blog, it’s pretty easy to remember some of the instances in which you were off base. In the last six months, I opined that Wisconsin Republicans’ efforts to suppress voter turnout in the state’s April statewide election might cost Democratic-backed Supreme Court Justice candidate Jill Karofsky the victory. It didn’t; she won handily. During the speculation as to whom former Vice President Joe Biden would pick as his running mate, I indicated that I feared that if she was chosen, U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris could well be a political liability. So far, she has instead proven to be an asset.
I fervently hope that I can chalk up what follows to the “miss” category when all the Pennsylvania presidential votes are tallied, but I think President Trump won last night’s debate – not because of anything he said, although he was markedly better (despite a couple of grotesquely tone-deaf statements and a blizzard of fabrications) than he was in the first debate – but ironically because of what Mr. Biden said during the candidates’ very last substantive exchange, when he was literally moments from escaping the stage with a sometimes wobbly but generally good-enough performance.
Mr. Trump asked Mr. Biden: “Would you close down the oil industry?”
Mr. Biden answered: “I would transition from the oil industry.”
I’m sure that Mr. Biden’s response was hailed in California, but he’s already won California. His answer perhaps cost him any chance of upsetting Mr. Trump in Texas, but he was likely to lose Texas anyway (although if I was U.S. TX Sen. John Cornyn, in an unexpectedly tight race with Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, I would have popped a bottle of champagne after the debate). However, the race seems likely to come down to Pennsylvania. They frack in Pennsylvania – as Mr. Trump quickly pointed out. Even if the Biden Campaign has internals indicating that Pennsylvania’s avid environmentalists heavily outnumber the state’s fossil fuel employees, Mr. Biden is already going to get all of the environmentalists’ votes; it’s support among the state’s blue collar swing voters – including the fossil fuel workers – that may be the difference in Pennsylvania. Although Pennsylvania state reports indicate — despite the national energy industry’s allegedly inflated job numbers – that there are only about 26,000 fracking jobs in Pennsylvania, these jobs undoubtedly feed others in some small Pennsylvania communities. In 2016, out of almost 6 million votes cast, Mr. Trump won Pennsylvania by just 42,000 votes. Every vote matters. If I was a Pennsylvania energy worker, I would find his answer a reason to vote for Mr. Trump. 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign declaration, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” wasn’t, if you were one of the three people that ever listened to her complete statement that day, that controversial; it was the tone that resonated.
One may argue that given the importance of the environment to our future, Mr. Biden’s answer was appropriate, since he’s running for the presidency of the United States, not the Governorship of Pennsylvania; I would respond that unless he wins Pennsylvania, there may be no United States presidency for him. On the other hand, CNN Commentator Rick Santorum – who was once a Pennsylvania Senator – mentioned the fracking exchange during the post-debate analysis, but didn’t dwell on it.
As I said at the outset: I hope I’m over-reacting, and will happily chalk this up as a “miss” if I see Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes placed squarely in Mr. Biden’s column. In the meantime, I don’t care that the national polls uniformly state that Mr. Biden won the debate. I’ll be watching Pennsylvania polls closely in the coming days.