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Republicans confident, Democrats nervous in Biden's hometown

AFP logoAFP 10/26/2020 AFP
a man wearing a suit and tie walking down the street: Trump man -- In and around Scranton, Joe Biden's hometown, Republicans expect victory in the US election despite the polls © Kena Betancur Trump man -- In and around Scranton, Joe Biden's hometown, Republicans expect victory in the US election despite the polls

David Mitchko has no doubts: Donald Trump can win Pennsylvania. In Scranton, Joe Biden's hometown, Republicans' confidence days before the US election contrasts with the cautious Democrats, traumatized by Hillary Clinton's defeat in 2016.

a man standing in front of a sign: David Mitchko, a fervent Trump supporter, at his home in Olyphant outside Scranton, Pennsylvania © Eric BARADAT David Mitchko, a fervent Trump supporter, at his home in Olyphant outside Scranton, Pennsylvania

Mitchko -- who is campaigning for the president -- sweeps aside polls showing Biden holds a five-point lead in the state, whose 20 electoral votes are key to election victory.

a house that has a sign on the side of a road: Joe Biden’s childhood house in Scranton, Pennsylvania -- one key state in the hard-fought election © Kena Betancur Joe Biden’s childhood house in Scranton, Pennsylvania -- one key state in the hard-fought election

"I don't believe in polls for one bit," the 53-year-old explains calmly, unmasked, between coughing fits.

"Four years ago you didn't see any Trump signs around here," he says of Olyphant, a suburb north of Scranton -- but things are changing.

"The support for the president is overwhelmingly stronger, compared to what it was in 2016," he declares, displaying the same optimism as in August, during a previous visit to the area by AFP.

As if to prove him right, a motorist honks his horn and raises his fist as he passes in front of Mitchko's house, decorated with large "Trump 2020" banners.

a person holding a sign: Bill Burke, a resident on the street where Joe Biden lived until he was 10, is a Democrat supporter wary of a repeat of the party's 2016 loss © Kena Betancur Bill Burke, a resident on the street where Joe Biden lived until he was 10, is a Democrat supporter wary of a repeat of the party's 2016 loss

Scranton, a city of 75,000 people, was the birthplace of Joe Biden 77 years ago.

But Pennsylvania's once-Democratic working class moved towards Trump in the 2016 election. 

- Trump's surprise - 

Hillary Clinton won Lackawanna County, to which Democratic-leaning Scranton belongs, by a slim margin in 2016. She lost Pennsylvania by one point.

The 2020 candidates, acutely aware of the stakes, are both fighting hard for the state. Biden returned on Saturday for his 16th visit, according to an NBC tally; while Trump will visit again on Monday.

Resident Matt Malloy is also convinced that the president will once again confound predictions.

"I don't know if he will win the town but I think he will win the country," he says. 

Like him, his partner Melissa Durkin will vote for Trump again on November 3 -- though she is registered on the electoral rolls as a Democrat.

"I don't think there has been a good Democrat candidate for a long time," laments the 33-year-old, wearing a "Make America Great Again" T-shirt. 

She is not seduced by Biden's regular visits to the city of his birth, adding: "I don't necessarily care where he is from."

- Democrat fears -

Nick Boyer, standing a few meters from the sandwich store "Hank's Hoagies," once a shop where Biden came to buy his candy as a child, says he thinks Trump will win the election.

"He has a lot of support in the South... I hope I'm wrong," added the criminal justice student. 

His 21-year-old girlfriend Logan McCann, who will be going to the polls for the first time, also admits to being "a little nervous" about the Democratic candidate.

"I know Hillary in 2016 won the popular vote and wasn't elected. I'm afraid it might happen again," she said.

"No Democrat in America is confident because 2016 took everybody by surprise, even Donald (Trump)," says Bill Burke, who lives on the street where the former vice president lived until he was 10 years old.

"Most Democrats are looking at good news, at polling numbers and all of that, your brain is going frantic trying to say: 'Ok, where is it looming? How is it going to slip away from us?'" said the 55-year-old history professor.

dax/hr/roc/st/bgs

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