As the country ramps up to another Presidential Election, there has been a lot of talk about the states that Trump won in 2016 and whether or not he can duplicate those victories in 2020. One of the surprises from that election was Pennsylvania, a normally blue state.
In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by just 0.7% or less than 45,000 votes. Trump won all but 11 counties in the state, 8 of which were in the greater Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philidelphia areas. Of the remaining 3 counties, Clinton prevailed by less than 3 points. Even in Harrisburg’s Dauphin County, Clinton only won the county by 2.9 points. In the Philly area’s Bucks County, Clinton was only victorious by 0.8%.
With the continued onslaught of media attacks on Trump, you’d expect that Democrats could expect to do well in the state in 2020. RCP currently has Biden leading by 4 points, though no appreciable polling has been done since the first week of September. That to me is shocking. While I lack the proof to say they aren’t releasing polls because they aren’t favorable, during the same period since the release of the last MSM poll in PA, there have been 7 polls released in North Carolina, 5 polls released in Arizona, 4 polls released in Wisconsin, 3 polls released in Minnesota and 3 polls released in Florida. Maybe I am reading into this where there isn’t a story, but if the polling results for Arizona (a state Trump won by 3.5 points) are so important, why would polling from PA be that much more important?
But I digress.
My friend and colleague here at RedState, Brad Slager, touched on something that was interesting earlier this month:
“In a prime example of the media laying off of anything positive, Politico has a report from the battleground state of Pennsylvania that is not getting the sweeping coverage across the networks. As Kamala Harris and her running mate are struggling to sell the concept of them being super supporters of fracking to appeal to voters, there is a true grassroots wave taking place. The Republicans are running laps around the Democrats in new voter registrations. “
A cursory look at the Politico article shows that they are focusing on the new voter registrations in the state, showing that Republicans have outpaced in newly registered voters. But the story doesn’t start or end there.
The story goes back further, all the way to 2016. In that year, Democrats made up 4,172,826 of the 8,646,238 voters in the state. Republicans? Only 3,280,202. Those figures showed a loss of over 70,000 voters for the Dems after 2012, while Republicans gained over 160,000 voters over the same period. The exodus from the Democrat party had begun.
The Politico article likely referenced the state’s registration statistics, which shows Dem trailing Republicans in new voter registrations, but ignores the deeper look at the information available at PA’s Department of State.
First, it should be noted that Democrats have actually lost more voters in the last four years than they have gained. As previously stated, 2016 figures showed Dems with 4,172,826 voters. Figures available September 7th, show the state’s Democrats have just 4,125,889 voters, a loss of nearly 47,000 voters. Republicans, on the other hand, ended 2016 with 3,280,202 voters but showed 3,376,463 voters on September 7th. Independents also increased, from 1,193,210 to 1,246,374 voters now. In other words, Republicans have added over 96,000 voters to their ranks while Democrats have lost 47,000. That’s over 143,000 voters netted to Republicans.
Deeper in the figures is more bad news for PA Dems. First, just since January 1 of this year, 39,681 Republicans have switched to Democrats in the State. During that same period of time, 57,233 Democrat voters switched to Republican, a net of 17,522 to Republicans. While that number is certainly indicative of a slide to Republicans, more Democrats also abandoned their party to Independents during the first part of 2020 compared to Republicans, 18,646 to 11,839, or nearly 7000 voters.
When compared to totals since 2016, Democrats have consistently lost more voters to Republicans than the Republicans have lost to Democrats. Between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2019, 75,895 voters switched from Republican to Democrat, while 111,911 voters switched from Democrat to Republican, a margin of 36,016 voters in favor of Republicans. Democrats are also losing more voters to Independents that Republicans, 52,698 to 37,305.
In total since January 1, 2017, Democrats have lost 169,144 voters to Republicans while Republicans have lost 115,576 voters to Democrats, a 53,568 voter edge to Republicans.
(These figures also show that the country is becoming more polarized, as Independents have been switching to either party at a higher rate than people are leaving either party for Independents.)
Between Republicans gains on Dems in both new voter registrations and current registration switching, the writing is on the wall for Democrats. The most recent poll, conducted by the Trafalgar Group, a Republican polling firm (and why I didn’t include it in the initial analysis), shows Biden with a 2 point lead over Trump. Despite a lack of accessible data that I would normally like from firms, this poll shows 63.9% of respondents to the poll from Philidelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas, when these areas only make up for 32.3% of voters. What’s the takeaway? Suburban Republican voters tend to be less conservative than their more rural counterparts. With 50% of the state’s voters being rural, the results from this poll are going to skew left, even then only showing a 2 point lead within this poll’s margin of error. This is even before tackling the fact that this poll does not show any determination of weighting because of voters’ registration preferences.
The idea Trump will lose PA is not grounded in either the voter data or the polling coming out of the state. If anything, Trump will win the state by a greater margin than he did in 2016.