To get a real sense for how this election is going, you need to ignore the national polls in establishment media that have Joe Biden poised for a decisive victory.
Look, instead, at the enthusiasm on the ground for Donald Trump and the economic optimism he represents.
Try driving from Manhattan through the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania to Weirton, W. Va., and talk to voters who have driven from three states to join a grassroots “Trump Train” car rally.
It only takes about seven hours, but the journey takes you from the capital of Trump Derangement Syndrome to a place where people proudly dress head to toe in clothing with the president’s face emblazoned on it.
Weirton, over the border from western Pennsylvania, and Steubenville, across the river in Ohio, are ground zero of the deindustrialization of America. Rusting factories on the banks of the Ohio River give the place a dystopian feel.
When steel and auto jobs were shipped off to China, despair turned into opioid addiction.
But under Trump’s “America first” policies, steel furnaces re-started, manufacturing jobs began to come back, and oil and gas boomed. A giant ethane “cracker” plant sprang up outside Pittsburgh, with more to come in Ohio and, locals hope eventually, if the greenies can be stopped, in West Virginia.
This re-energized economy, albeit with a pandemic pause, accounts in large part for the loyalty many former Democratic voters feel toward the president today.
“I support Trump because he’s pro-life, he supports the right to bear arms and because he supports my livelihood, which is oil and natural gas,” says Ohioan Jason Laster, 44, a maintenance foreman for Southwestern Energy who joined the Trump Train in Weirton.
“I just I feel like he’s done great things for the country already. And, four more years, if we can get [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi to quit trying to impeach him, then I feel like he’s gonna do a bunch more great things.”
Ohio Hog farmer Ross Miller, 39, who brought to Weirton his farm truck festooned with Trump paraphernalia including two life-sized wooden carvings of the president, is confident of victory.
“He’s done everything that he said he would do when he was campaigning. So everybody’s saying, you know what, this guy did this for the first 3½ years. Let’s see what he’s going to do for another four years.”
A Biden win next week is not the impression you get from the anemic turnouts for the former VP’s occasional forays out of the basement where a dozen people stand dutifully inside social-distancing circles or in cars feebly honking their horns.
In fact, when Biden does venture outside Delaware, he’s likely to find exuberant flag-waving Trump supporters lining the route of his motorcade, drowning out his remarks with chants of “four more years.”
A Biden win is not the impression you get from the thousands of ecstatic supporters at airport rallies the president is doing up to three times a day.
It’s also not the impression of the handful of pollsters who didn’t wind up with egg on their faces in 2016.
Fran Coombs, managing editor of Rasmussen Reports, sees the numbers this year as very similar to the 2016 presidential election, when Hillary Clinton and Trump were neck-and-neck to the end.
In its daily national tracking poll Wednesday, Rasmussen had Trump ahead of Biden by one point for the second day running, after trailing by as much as 12.
The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points, but the trajectory is in the right direction.
Coombs says polls have picked up a “level of Trump hatred [that is] is mind-boggling” and accounts for a high “shy” Trump vote. Republicans are 10-15 points less likely than Democrats to divulge their voting intentions.
Coombs suspects some Trump voters also are deliberately misleading pollsters.
Florida-based political consultant Albert Marko, a former pollster who advises hedge funds, also sees Trump repeating his 2016 victory.
He calculates the president will lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College with 306 votes to Biden’s 232, scooping up the top battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona.
Marko says the economy is the Number 1 issue for voters.
“The [Democrats’] strategy to only use COVID response against Trump’s economy was an absolute disaster . . . as people vote with their paycheck and rarely ideology.
“The fear inducing lockdowns have run their course, as the public is desperate for normalcy.”
An NBC/WSJ poll earlier this month found the one area where Trump led Biden was in “better dealing with the economy,” at 48 percent to 41.
With Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes key to a Trump victory, Biden blew it last week when he admitted at the presidential debate that he would kill off, or “transition” out of, the oil industry, the lifeblood of the state.
Only 22 percent of Pennsylvania voters had cast a ballot by the time Biden said that and you can bet his threat to their jobs will boost turnout.
For Laster, the comment just reinforced his mistrust of the Democrats. “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have already said that one of the main agendas they’re going to have is to eliminate fracking“.
“That’s what supports this entire panhandle, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky . . . It’s huge on coal, natural gas and steel . . . and you can’t have a great America without it.”
Ohioan Bob Baker, 68, echoed the sentiment. “We need Donald Trump in here because there’s a lot of jobs on the line, especially the gas and oil Harris and Biden don’t want.”
Harley-riding Vietnam veteran Keith Moore, 64, from Dayton, Ohio, is more certain now than he was in 2016 of a Trump victory.
He is “doing a bang-up job and he’s kept us out of a war . . . And he keeps his promises.”
To forgotten Americans let down by politicians for as long as they can remember, the nonpolitician from Queens is the answer to their dreams.
Hill’s ill winds
Hillary Clinton says the thought of Donald Trump winning the election makes her “literally sick to my stomach.”
That’s an extreme reaction for a seasoned politician. Perhaps she feels physically unwell at the prospect of four more years of Trump because she knows she will have to account for the role she played in launching the Russiagate scandal.
She and her fellow swamp-dwellers would be well advised to stock up on Pepto Bismol.
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