MAPS: The counties that pushed Biden to the presidency in Pa.

By: - November 10, 2020 6:30 am

Chris Cieslak, a 51 year old retired Army Lt. Col. from Pittsburgh, sits on top of a car waiting for Vice President Joe Biden to speak on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020 at a Pittsburgh drive-in rally at Heinz Field the day before the election (Capital-Star photo).

(*This story was updated at 9:07 a.m. on 11/10/20 to correctly identify Northampton County as one of two Pennsylvania counties that Joe Biden swung from President Donald Trump in 2016.)

Democrats were hopeful that former Vice President Joe Biden would prevail in a landslide victory over President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 General Election, leading his party in a blue wave that would repudiate Trumpism from the White House to state legislatures. 

Those hopes largely dissolved as unofficial election results rolled in last week. While media outlets have called the presidential race for Biden, his party was largely trounced in statehouse races. 

Pennsylvania Republicans are on track to strengthen their majorities in both state legislative chambers and to flip at least one row office. 

In the presidential race, unofficial results from the Department of State show that Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania hinged on modest gains in a few crucial counties. 

Biden won 13 Pennsylvania counties, sweeping the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas, the student-heavy area around Penn State in Centre County, and northeastern communities in the Lehigh Valley.

He also eked out narrow majorities in Northampton* and Erie counties, both of which went for Trump in 2016.

With 3,362,873 Pennsylvania votes and counting as of Monday afternoon, Biden is on track to eclipse the Democratic showing in the 2016 presidential race by more than 450,000 votes. 

He secured his victory in part by wringing more Democratic votes out of contested suburban areas. Cumberland, Pike, Montour and Chester Counties all saw at least a three percent increase in the share of the vote that went to Democrats in 2020 compared to 2016, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the Democratic ticket.

Biden commanded a 44,930-vote margin over Trump by Monday evening. And while his victory remained decisive in counties including Philadelphia, Biden actually received a smaller share of the vote in some areas than Clinton did in 2016. 

Take Philadelphia, where Trump is on track to get a greater vote share than any Republican presidential candidate since 2004. Biden won Philadelphia with an overwhelming 81 percent of the vote as of Monday, when the county is still tabulating provisional ballots. 

But Pennsylvania’s largest city actually saw support for Trump grow this year. The president’s share of the vote in Philadelphia ticked up by nearly three percentage points from 2016 to 2020. 

Local officials told the Philadelphia Inquirer Trump’s campaign galvanized “immigrants and first- and second-generation Americans of Russian, Ukrainian, and Indian descent in Northeast Philadelphia.” National exit polls also found that Trump gained support among Black men this year. 

The president also entrenched his support in western Pennsylvania. His vote share grew by more than 2 points in Mercer, Fayette and Greene Counties and by three points in Clarion County.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.