PA Elections: What We Know
November 4, 2020
As the sun burns off the morning mist on the Susquehanna River that flows two blocks from the state Capitol, there is more uncertainty in the air than usual on the always-groggy day after the election.
As all the world knows, the three Midwestern states—if we may use a phrase beloved of national journalists and a source of confusion in eastern Pennsylvania, which is west of very little except New Jersey and, beyond that, Portugal—that were Donald Trump’s springboard to victory in 2016 remain too close to call.
In Pennsylvania, as in Wisconsin and Michigan—as well as still too-close-to-call Georgia—the remaining votes are part of the overwhelming flood of mail ballots cast by mail this fall. 1.4 million votes, a bit less than a quarter of the total votes cast, remain to be counted.
No one doubts that those votes will break heavily toward the Democrats, quite possibly by enough to erase the leads now enjoyed by President Trump and the Republican slate of candidates for state offices.
Even with any number of races still in limbo as we wait for these votes to be counted, one thing is clear: the wave of suburban support for Democratic ticket that we saw all over the country in 2018 simply did not materialize.
Two much-discussed Democratic candidates for Congress, one in suburban Philadelphia and another in Harrisburg and its suburbs, fell well short of victory, and early returns suggest that three incumbent Democrats in Congress are in more danger of defeat than was generally expected.
In Pennsylvania’s legislature, state Senate Republicans maintained—and may even have expanded—the majority they have held after each election for forty years.
Democrats knew that they would need a few lucky breaks to come close to overturning the Republican majority in the state House, but hoped a solid Biden win here might make that a real possibility. Those hopes were dashed last night, although Democrats may still have picked up a few seats in the 203-member House.
Adding insult to injury, Republicans seem likely to defeat the leader of the state House Democrats, a thirty-year incumbent from what was once a securely Democratic district.
The days ahead should make last night’s results much clearer—the most pessimistic forecast is enough of the mail ballots will be counted by Friday to establish the winner of every contest—and the future of government and politics in Pennsylvania in the next few years will come into much sharper focus as well.