What Just Happened in PA?
November 11, 2020
A week after the 2020 election, election, it seems fairly clear where Pennsylvania stands as jockeying gets underway for the state’s marquee races in in 2022: as a closely contested state in which both parties have reason to be guardedly optimistic about their chances in what will be contests that without an incumbent governor or U. S. Senator.
The reasons for Republican optimism are hard to dispute. They defied expectations by expanding their majorities in one and probably both chambers of the General Assembly, setting the stage for two final years of frustration for Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, whose interest in finding common ground with legislative Republicans to achieve even partial victories is as limited as their interest in doing anything to accommodate Wolf.
But at the heart of Republican interest are two obscure races. Pennsylvania elects a state Treasurer and Auditor General in races that general little more than a reflection of the state’s partisan preference. Only one Republican in the last century has managed to win either spot as Democrats won the presidential race here, and she was a decided maverick who would end her career as a Democrat.
Despite that, and in spite of Biden’s victory here last week, Republicans won both offices last week with little-known candidates whose only previous races were for county offices. Not unreasonably, Republicans point to those wins as a sign of enduring Republican strength here.
State Democrats are unsurprisingly delighted by their victory in the presidential race and by their successful defense of three vulnerable seats in Congress, but that is tempered by their disappointment in the results of other races and a belief that 2020 was a missed opportunity. If it was, it was not for lack of resources—outside groups spent more than twenty million dollars to support legislative candidates from both parties.
Two conclusions about the 2020 electorate are clear. First, most of the Republicans who abandoned Trump in order either to vote for Biden or simply skip the race supported Republican candidates for other offices.
At the same time, Trump supporters in even the most traditionally Democratic parts of the state largely voted for the entire Republican ticket as well.
Together, those two things pushed dozens of Republican candidates ahead of Donald Trump statewide or in their districts and made it all in all a pretty good night for Republicans.
So—as always happens as even the longest campaigns—attention turns to the next set of races and what are certain to be ferocious battles for the top spots as Pennsylvania chooses a new Senator and a new Governor.