A Republican rally featuring Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple facing felony charges for displaying their firearms while hundreds of protesters marched past their home in a gated community back in June, has been called off by officials in the town where the campaign event was scheduled to take place.
Palmer Township posted a statement on the town’s Facebook page on Friday stating that the request to hold the rally has been denied based on estimates that the event would likely draw in more attendees than what the state of Pennsylvania currently allows under COVID-19 mitigation orders.
“Upon review of this request, based on the recent promotional efforts for the event from the applicant, and the generated publicity in the news and social media, it is anticipated that the planned event will result in a gathering of more than 250 persons,” which would violate state prohibitions on gatherings that large, the township said in a post on its website and Facebook page.
Pennsylvania is very much a battleground state at the moment. Public polling is all over the place, with a Marist poll this week showing Donald Trump with a whopping nine point lead, far better than the current RealClearPolitics polling average, which still has Biden leading in the state by a little more than four points. As Ed Morrissey and I discussed on today’s VIP Gold live chat (available for replay here), the Biden campaign is sure acting like Pennsylvania is up for grabs. Biden himself was in Pittsburgh for a speech last week, and both Biden and Trump visited the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, PA as part of their observance of the 9/11 anniversary on Friday.
The Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, where the McCloskeys were set to appear, was divided territory in the 2016 elections. Donald Trump won Northampton County by almost four points over Hillary Clinton, but the Democrat won Lehigh County by almost the same margin.
Since then, Republicans have seen a surge in voter registrations in their favor. Fox News pointed out this week that an increase in GOP voters in Northampton County was a key component of Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania four years ago, and noted that the Trump campaign’s voter outreach has added nearly 200,000 GOP-affiliated voters in the years since. Democrats, on the other hand, have only seen about 29,000 new voters, though they still hold an advantage of about 750,000 registered voters statewide.
Republicans in the area are already complaining about the decision by officials in Palmer Township, claiming in a Facebook post that the town has fallen to “the radical left cancel culture.” The Northampton County GOP says, however, that the event is still on at another location, though they’ve not yet announced where it will take place.
Interestingly, while Palmer Township officials declared that the event featuring the McCloskeys was nixed because they feared the event would draw more than 250 people, as of Friday afternoon only a few dozen people had confirmed their attendance on the Northampton County GOP Facebook page, with about 120 others expressing interest in attending. It’s quite possible that the McCloskeys will draw a much larger crowd, but it does seem odd that the township would reject holding the rally over crowd size when, at the moment anyway, it looks like the event could draw fewer than 250 attendees.
Does that mean the rally really was cancelled out of political, not public health concerns? No, but it’s certainly possible that politics played a role in the decision.
As Republicans in Pennsylvania wait to hear where the rally featuring the McCloskeys will take place, Democrats in the Keystone State are wondering if Joe Biden’s running mate will ever visit the state before Election Day. The Philadelphia Tribune notes that Philly is the home of Biden’s national campaign headquarters, but so far Kamala Harris has been a no-show in the state.
The senator from California has yet to personally campaign in Pennsylvania, which is puzzling since it was assumed she would help the ticket galvanize the Black vote in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state’s two most populous cities.
“I’ve got to think there is a strategic reason why she hasn’t appeared in Pennsylvania,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political analysis newsletter established in 2002 at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
“We have to keep in mind that campaign stops are strategic,” Coleman said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe, when the election gets closer, and the Biden campaign needs to [inspire people to] get out the vote, Biden and Harris may do joint appearances.”
Based on the lack of attendance at Biden events to date, I don’t think the campaign should be worried about running afoul of the state’s ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. Maybe Kamala Harris can help bring in a crowd in Philadelphia, but if nothing else Republicans in Pennsylvania can crow that a couple from St. Louis, Missouri is apparently a bigger draw than the Democratic candidate for president.