Analysis: Biden and Trump win PA primary, but who’s best for PA?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden
From left, Donald Trump (Photo: Flickr) and Joe Biden (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

There were no surprises at the top of the Pennsylvania ballot Tuesday. In the closed primary, President Joe Biden and Republican candidate Donald Trump each won their respective party primaries which excluded Independent voters who will be critical come November. No third party candidates could be voted for in this primary, either.

It was a low-turnout election, despite key statewide races. Pennsylvania has millions of registered voters and a population of 13 million people, yet only 988,320 Democrats and 942,313 Republicans voted for the presidential candidates. Biden got 93.1% of the Democratic vote. Dean Phillips was still on the ballot and received 6.9% of the vote, likely protest votes since he left the race in March. 

Protesters against the Biden administration’s support of Israel’s war on Gaza urged Pennsylvania Democrats to cast “uncommitted” votes against Biden. But unlike other states, there’s no “uncommitted” option on the ballot — only a write-in option. Philadelphia had five times the number of write-in votes than it did in the 2020 primary, despite a smaller number of voters, but what those write-ins were won’t be known for days or even weeks. 

In the six Pennsylvania counties with the most registered Democrats, the number of write-in votes counted in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary had already surpassed the 2020 figures, as of 12 a.m. Wednesday. There were about 36,000 write-in votes,14,330 of which were in Philadelphia county. That number was far fewer than in other states and fewer than projected by Uncommitted PA.

Biden’s win was relatively unencumbered, but Trump’s was less so. Nikki Haley remained on the ballot despite having left the race after Super Tuesday last month and received 156,950 votes — 16.6% of the vote to Trump’s 788,871 votes — 83.4% of the GOP vote. That math is bad for Trump: those Haley votes were largely centered in the critical Philly suburbs where white women are anxious over Trump’s conflicting statements on a national abortion ban. As the New York Times noted Wednesday morning, “Trump remains haunted by Haley. Haley, who dropped out of the race more than a month ago, won more than 155,000 votes, an indication of Trump’s difficulties in winning over her supporters.”

Biden reached out to Haley voters earlier this month, with a damning 30-second ad. That ad juxtaposes Trump’s attacks on Haley with suggestions her voters come over to Biden-Harris. Trump has posted racist and misogynist commentary about his former UN Ambassador, calling her “BRAINDEAD” and “BIRDBRAIN” on his Truth Social site. Not, as Politico noted, “a magnanimous candidate looking to mend the intraparty fracture.”

With Pennsylvania so pivotal to a November win, what do these candidates — the putative nominees — have to offer any fence-sitters or all those who sat out the PA primary? Polls show voters are most concerned about the economy, immigration, abortion and democracy itself. Women prioritize abortion and reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ voters are concerned about losing what few rights are legally protected.

For women and LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, as well as older, disabled and poor voters, the stakes could not be higher from a deeply personal perspective: abortion rights are on the ballot in the general election. So too are Social Security and Medicaid, which will impact not just people over 65, but people living with HIV and people whose only access to healthcare is through Medicaid. Trump has also stated he wants to overturn the Affordable Care Act, through which millions buy reduced cost healthcare plans.

Conversely, on March 26, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris reaffirmed their support for more, not less healthcare provisions for Americans. In a speech late last month, Harris said, “access to healthcare should be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it….while President Biden and I are fighting to expand access to affordable healthcare, there are extremists in our country trying to take away healthcare coverage or make it more expensive — extremists who want to take away coverage from our seniors by trying to cut Social Security and Medicare. They want to take away coverage from working families by trying to gut Medicaid. And they want to take away coverage from people with preexisting conditions by continuously trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

Harris detailed concerns about abortion and reproductive rights, Black maternal health, and healthcare for those who can’t afford it via Medicaid expansion which the GOP has worked to quash, including in Pennsylvania.

On April 19, the Biden administration posted new Title IX regulations which expand protections for LGBTQ+ students and also change the way schools deal with sexual misconduct and discrimination allegations. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex and the new rules expand that definition to include sexual orientation and gender identity. These new guidelines reverse rules made under the Trump administration by then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. 

Called the “Final Rule,” the new guidelines affect colleges as well as federally-funded elementary and secondary schools. These new rules are part of a pledge Biden made to end rules made by the previous Education Secretary under former president Trump. The final regulations advance Title IX’s promise of ensuring that no person experiences sex discrimination, including sex-based harassment or sexual violence, in federally funded education.

The final rule protects all students and employees from all sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX, including by restoring and strengthening full protection from sexual violence and other sex-based harassment. The rule protects against discrimination based on sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

And the rule clarifies the steps a school must take to protect students, employees and applicants from discrimination based on pregnancy or related conditions (Some lesbian teachers have been fired for getting pregnant, for example). LGBTQ+ students facing discrimination are now entitled to a response from their school under Title IX, and those who don’t get one can seek recourse from the federal government.

“These final regulations clarify Title IX’s requirement that schools promptly and effectively address all forms of sex discrimination,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “We look forward to working with schools, students and families to prevent and eliminate sex discrimination.”

Lhamon said these additions to Title IX ensure that any student who experiences a “hostile environment” at school based on sex, the law will protect them.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement, “For more than 50 years, Title IX has promised an equal opportunity to learn and thrive in our nation’s schools free from sex discrimination.”  

Cardona said, “These final regulations build on the legacy of Title IX by clarifying that all our nation’s students can access schools that are safe, welcoming and respect their rights.”

These Biden-Harris protections for healthcare and against discrimination provide a stark contrast to policies of the previous Trump administration which Biden is attempting to correct. They also provide unequivocal support for the most vulnerable members of American society — which includes Pennsylvanians and particularly Philadelphians who are more likely to be poor and/or LGBTQ.

Yet despite these seemingly stark differences and Trump’s recent assertion he will renew his 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy, while Biden pledged to tax those making over $400,000, Trump currently leads Biden in Pennsylvania in all polling. With the election just six months away and the wild card of third party candidates as possible spoilers, the race for Pennsylvania just got more intense and much tighter with Tuesday’s election.

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