Why did Trump lose Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania played a key role in Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016. This year, I thought that, although Trump would lose the election, he would again carry Pennsylvania. It seemed to me that the riots in Philadelphia and Biden’s contradictory statements about fracking would see the president through in the Keystone State.

It didn’t work out that way. Why not?

One possible explanation is voter fraud. On this view, Trump didn’t really lose Pennsylvania, it was stolen from him.

But the vote count puts Biden ahead of Trump by more than 50,000 votes. Was there enough fraud to account for that gap? Maybe, but I haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

In the absence of such evidence, a better explanation for the Pennsylvania result comes from Henry Enten. He tweeted:

In the U.S. House races, the GOP candidates are getting 117k more votes than the Dem candidates. Fact is the prez race was just different. Lots of potential GOP voters just couldn’t stomach Trump.

If Trump ran this poorly in Pennsylvania compared to GOP House candidates, then it’s likely that Trump lost Pennsylvania because, as Enten says, many GOP voters were turned off by his antics — the over-the-top tweets, the persistent nastiness (some of it gratuitous), and so forth. Either Trump was incapable of acting presidential or he simply didn’t want to. Voters noticed and some potential supporters appear to have balked.

There is another possible explanation for GOP House candidates outperforming Trump in Pennsylvania. House candidates, whether incumbents or not, could not be blamed for the U.S. response to the Wuhan coronavirus. Trump could be and, I think, was to some degree — whether fairly or not.

My guess is that some combination of these two factors — Trump’s persona and the virus — explains why GOP House members outperformed Trump in Pennsylvania, and why Trump lost the state this time.

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