I should have brought my kids' karaoke microphone to the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Friday. It would have come in handy as the DJ stoked dancing Democrats on one side of a police line separating them from Trumpistas protesting the counting of mail-in ballots inside.
Days after the election had ended but with votes still being tabulated, the Philadelphia crowd of Democrats at 12th and Arch Streets was understandably excited that Joe Biden was enjoying a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. Mail ballots from the overwhelmingly liberal city had pushed Biden ahead of Trump, but with a margin too slim to call it a win just yet. That would come on Saturday.
Still, the DJ was quick to congratulate Philly for sending Biden to the White House. She thanked Philly and even other states for making it happen. But this wasn’t the whole story. A whole lot of outside-of-Philly muscle pulled out crazy numbers for Biden, without which there’d have been no Biden taking the lead in Pennsylvania on Friday.
“Philly!” the DJ shouted from a perch I could not see among the masked throngs. “Y’all shut down the orange clown!”
Not exactly true.
Incomplete returns show that one of the biggest body blows to Trump in Pennsylvania was delivered not by Philadelphia but two suburban counties whose names got not so much as a mention from that mic.
I am talking about the counties affectionately nicknamed Delco and Montco. Stepsisters to Philly who Brought The Heat To This Race.
As much as Philadelphia’s sheer size has long been critical to any Democratic presidential victory in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Montgomery Counties so outperformed their 2016 totals that it’s time to replace those clunky nicknames with an entirely new one:
Even with returns not yet fully counted in Pennsylvania because of the onerous process of sifting through millions of ballots used for the first time this year under the state’s new expanded remote voting system, it is hard to imagine Biden having a real shot at unseating Trump without what voters in these two counties did for him.
Delco and Montco (yes, the locals will “like” you if you use this shorthand, as CNN’s John King said he learned from local boy Jake Tapper the other night) delivered a combined 80,000 more votes for Biden than they did for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
This obliterated the merely modest GOP boost that Trump got there. And given how supercharged Trump’s own base was with higher-than-2016 numbers elsewhere in the commonwealth, the surges in Delco and Montco couldn’t have been more critical.
Combined, the counties by Friday had delivered 513,161 votes to Biden compared with Trump’s 298,717. Philadelphia, with thousands of votes still uncounted, had notched 555,833 for Biden to Trump’s 125,897 as of Friday night. (That’s Biden at 81% of votes in a city with 76% Democratic voters.)
Philadelphia got its Democrats out.
Delco and Montco got their Democrats out, too — plus a ton of others who hadn’t come out for Clinton four years ago.
Delaware County, a longtime Republican stronghold until just a few years ago, boasts just 49% registered Democratic voters but sent Biden some 62% of the vote. Montgomery’s 50% registered Democrats is a fraction of the 63% vote share that Biden won.
Now you understand why I so badly wanted that karaoke mic in Center City.
This suburban blitz was an astounding display of getting-out-the-vote for Biden.
Even former Delaware County Democratic Party chair David Landau, a veteran of fighting losing battles, could not believe the numbers when I tracked him down Friday morning. Biden was ahead by an 81,700-vote margin and it was growing still.
“That blows away every presidential election I’ve been in. It’s historic,” said Landau, who until his departure as party chief a few years ago had worked for decades trying in vain to elect Democrats in the legendarily strong Republican stronghold. He left after the county began to flip into liberal hands.
Across Delco’s shared border into Montgomery County, Democratic Party head Joe Foster was just as impressed by Biden’s performance, though he was smarting over big Democratic losses in state legislative contests where many Biden voters inexplicably picked Republicans for down-ballot races.
“We had at least 84% turnout,” Foster said, compared with the 77% that had made Montgomery County a standout in Clinton’s failed Pennsylvania bid in 2016.
The fact of “313,000 votes for Biden in Montgomery County alone” — compared with 256,000 for Clinton four years earlier — is extraordinary, he agreed. “We’ve never had those kinds of numbers before.”
In Delco, 199,618 voters chose Biden, compared with 177,402 for Clinton.
Trump, who drew even bigger vote counts in deeply Republican counties far from Southeastern Pennsylvania than he had against Clinton, squeezed barely 20,000 new votes out of Montco and a measly 5,000 from Delco.
On Saturday, major television networks declared Biden had won Pennsylvania and, with it, the White House. He’d done so with the Electoral College edge and a historic popular-vote lead over Trump. Legal challenges mounted by a president who spent the week comparing vote counting to fraud made it unclear if or when Trump would concede.
Given the penchant for infighting within their party, Democrats should take this time to find their better angels. They should avoid trying to pit one stakeholder group against another, given how Biden has reached victory.
Biden won Pennsylvania because all of his backers in this state came together with single-minded determination to make him president. Like pieces of a wooden Jenga toy tower, each one will have been critical to reaching the top.