Republican President Donald Trump far exceeded former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democrat nominee in 2020, in this year’s presidential primary in terms of raw vote totals in Pennsylvania.
Trump received, according to the latest reported totals, 870,291 votes this week in Pennsylvania, a key rust belt state that helped put him in the White House, while Biden received more than 100,000 votes less than Trump at just 749,712. As Pennsylvania’s Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf has extended the timeframe for several counties to report some of their final results, these totals will likely change slightly between now and next week. But some insights can be gleaned from the numbers as reported now.
Both men ran unopposed in their party primaries in Pennsylvania though challengers to both previously dropped out of the race. Biden’s main opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), technically an independent who caucuses with Democrats, dropped out in early April. Trump’s only remaining primary opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, dropped out in mid-March.
Both Sanders and Weld still appeared on ballots in Pennsylvania, as did Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). But the fact that Trump — who, like Biden, was running for his party’s nomination unopposed — hit a vote total significantly higher than Biden’s is interesting.
Compared with Trump’s total from the 2016 presidential primary in Pennsylvania, the president finished just under 30,000 votes less than his totals then. In a competitive race that year, in which Trump faced off against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Keystone State, the president received 892,702 votes. Cruz and Kasich both received more than 300,000 votes each that year, while the now-dropped-out Weld this year got just over 42,000 votes.
As such, Trump nearly hit his 2016 primary total in Pennsylvania when he had no competition and was easily going to be the nominee, with only a handful of competitive down-ticket primaries around the state. That means Trump supporters across Pennsylvania went out of their way — during the coronavirus pandemic no less — to demonstrate they support Trump in a primary where he did not even need their votes.
While not definitive when it comes to predicting what will come to pass in the general election, this detail could indicate higher levels of support for Trump among his base than Biden among the Democrat base. What’s more, even though Sanders dropped out on April 8, he received 179,714 votes in Pennsylvania’s primary this week — a stunningly high number for a candidate who has been out of the race for nearly two full months now.
Sanders getting that many votes long after he dropped out may also provide insight into why Biden, who faces no intra-party opposition for the nomination this year anymore, is still pandering to the leftist base of the Democrat Party. Biden’s team has foreshadowed coming plans for a “revolutionary” agenda from the former vice president, all while he has gone to great lengths to attempt to shore up support among the Democrat base to prevent an outcome similar to the fate of 2016 Democrat nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton, who pivoted quickly to the general election when she had fended off Sanders that year, ended up losing many Sanders supporters in the general election. How Biden intends to bring those people into the fold for him, while also not alienating the middle, remains to be seen.
Recent polling in Pennsylvania has been mixed when it comes to Trump and Biden, too. A Change Research/CNBC poll conducted last week shows Trump leading Biden by four points in the Keystone State, whereas several April polls showed Biden leading by different amounts there.
Polling in the era of Trump, though, has been notoriously wrong. Back in 2016, from the conventions onward until the general election, only one poll — one conducted by a GOP firm right before the election — showed Trump winning the state according to RealClearPolitics. Another one showed a tie between Trump and Clinton, but dozens of other polls showed Clinton winning Pennsylvania. Trump ended up winning the state.