Former Vice President Joe Biden has expanded his lead over rival 2020 Democrats in Pennsylvania, a state he claims to be his home turf.
A poll released by Franklin & Marshall College on Thursday shows the former vice president leading his nearest rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), by double digits. Biden, known to refer to himself as “Joe from Scranton” on the campaign trail, commands 30 percent of registered Democrats, according to the results. Warren, who has leapfrogged the former vice president in national and early state polls, captured second place with 18 percent. Rounding out the top four were Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
The results paint a different picture than the last Franklin & Marshall poll from August, which saw Biden only leading Warren within the margin of error. In that survey, the former vice president only posted 28 percent among Democrats to Warren’s 21 percent.
Biden’s improvement between August and October comes from the inroads his campaign seems to have made with those that identify as liberal Democrats. In August, the former vice president garnered only 13 percent among such voters, trailing both Warren (31 percent) and Sanders (16 percent). This time around, however, Biden bested Sanders for second place among liberal Democrats, taking 24 percent to the self-described democrat socialist’s 15 percent. Warren still remained the favorite at 31 percent, but did not gain any support even as Sanders, a darling of the progressive left, lost ground.
The former vice president’s rise among liberal Democrats, though, has come at the price of his support with self-acknowledged moderates. In August, Biden dominated among such voters, commanding 47 percent outright, leading Biden and Sanders by as much as forty percentage points. Thursday’s poll found Biden taking 40 percent among moderates, with Sanders in second place with nine percent. Warren and Buttigieg landed in third and fourth place respectively, garnering eight percent and seven percent each.
The poll also found an educational divide between Pennsylvania Democrats that seems to fit into the broader argument Biden has been making since entering the race. Among respondents with a high school degree or less, the former vice president led his challengers resoundingly. Biden captured 39 percent among such voters, compared to ten percent for Warren and six percent for Sanders. He similarly led with Democrats that had some college education, taking 29 percent to Sanders’ 13 percent and Warren’s seven percent. It was only among college educated Democrats that Warren led Biden narrowly, 28 percent to 26 percent. Sanders landed in third place with such voters at 14 percent.
Biden’s strong showing in Pennsylvania, especially among working class voters, buoys his campaign as it faces fundraising troubles and sinking poll numbers. The poll also seems to give credence to Biden’s argument that he’s the only Democrat capable of winning back the white working class, who although decreasingly nationally still make up a significant portion of the electorate in states like Pennsylvania.
In 2016, voters without a college degree backed President Donald Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a margin of 52 percent to 44 percent. The share was significantly larger among non-college educated whites, who broke for Trump by the largest margin since 1980—67 percent to 28 percent. Trump’s margin among the group was vital in carrying Pennsylvania and other parts of the industrial United States that had voted Democrat for decades prior to 2016.
Biden’s showing in the Franking & Marshall is also likely a personal boost, especially as the former vice president often touts his Pennsylvania roots. Not only was Biden born in Scranton, Pennsylvania but he lived there with his family until the age of 11, when they moved to neighboring Delaware. Although Biden remained in Delaware for the rest of his life and built a successful political career, Pennsylvania, by his own admission, held a special place in his heart. During his nearly 40-year congressional career, Biden’s advocacy on behalf of the state and it’s interests earned him the nickname the “third senator from Pennsylvania.”
“For the last thirty-five years, any time Scranton needs something… I don’t know how to say no to them,” Biden told GQ magazine in 2010. “For real. I really don’t. You know, it’s still home”
Since announcing his campaign, Biden frequently invoked Pennsylvania and his upbringing in Scranton, specifically, to legitimize his middle-class bonafides. Biden’s proclivity for such statements has even drawn derision from Trump, who hopes to carry the state again in 2020.
“He’s not from Pennsylvania,” the president said during a May campaign swing through the state. “I guess he was born here, but he left you folks. … He left you for another state, and he didn’t take care of you, because he didn’t take care of your jobs. He let other countries come in and rip off America.”