NEW HOPE, PA. – I steadied myself and took a deep and fateful breath before, one foot in front of the other, I crossed the bridge from 2020 national nonentity New Jersey into legitimate battleground state Pennsylvania.
These guys were supposedly among a handful of states that would actually decide an historic national election 38 days from now. In a Fox News Poll released this past week, 51 percent of likely voters supported Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden and 44 percent supported incumbent Republican President Donald J. Trump.
Seeking the atmosphere of a real battleground, I wandered into the local Dunkin Donuts.
There was a man inside with his head in his hands.
Two eyes looked up drearily over his mask as I ordered a pumpkin donut and a cup of coffee.
“Who’s winning over here?” I asked, pulling up a chair. “Trump or Biden?”
He grunted something and got up and left.
I walked down to the river.
There was a guy sitting on a park bench.
“I’m from over there,” I said, giving a nod across the river to the last patch of greenery in the Garden state, bulldozed to the edge of the Delaware River.
“Just wondering what it was like over here in a real battleground,” I explained.
“I’m from New Jersey, too,” he said with a grin and added, “North Brunswick.”
Back on Main Street, I noticed a pair of women looking through the window of Pet Photos Plus at some chew toys for dogs in the shapes of presidential contenders.
“Oh, and look, there’s Nancy Pelosi,” one of them observed.
I went inside, where Vicky, who was working there today, told me about the toys, which included not only Biden, Trump and Pelosi, but Bill Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Which doll sells the most?
“Definitely Trump, by far, no comparison,” Vicky said. “Some because they dislike Trump and they want their dog to tear it up, and others because they like Trump.
At least one customer resented seeing a chew toy of Trump. But, “They’re parodies and they do it to all the politicians,” Vicky explained.
Judy Dinnerman, the owner, added in an email:
New Hope is an arts colony and I figured it would lean Biden. So I went back, grabbed the car and drove into the interior of the state, where as expected, I enountered a lot of Trump signs.
Some homes were overhung with Trump and Pence visuals.
I stopped at one such farm house and yelled to see if anyone was around, then wandered into a barn and heard only the panting of horses in reply to my shouts. I stopped at another place about a half mile up the road that was even more Trumped up and a woman in the back saw me shuffling around in the street and came forward.
“What’s going on over here?” I asked her. “Who’s winning the presidential contest?”
“In this area, it’s nearly all Trump,” she told me. “I’d imagine New Hope and Doylestown, they’ll be for Biden, but everywhere else is heavily Trump.”
So it surprised me a little when I ran into this sign:
I pulled onto the long dirt driveway and lurched up to the lonely farmhouse.
There was no one around.
No one but horses grazing.
The haunting echo resounded.
Apparently people in Pennsylvania were taking this vote by mail thing so seriously they weren’t even going outside on their own propeties.
There were cars in all these driveways, just no people.
A few more Biden-Harris signs doted the lawns of houses in and among the Trump-Pence signs in this particular stretch. Signs – and, again, no trace of anybody home. I sped back to Jersey, back to my people, those packed-together fellow grim sufferers of a fate that does not include deciding this presidential election, no less attached, on the heels of the journey and in the big scheme of things, to horses, dolls and dogs.