How Philadelphia's Suburbs Helped Biden Win Pennsylvania In the four suburban counties that ring Philadelphia, Joe Biden topped President Trump by more than 280,000 votes.

Philadelphia's Suburbs Helped Deliver Crucial Pennsylvania For Biden

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President Trump's legal team made a number of baseless claims about widespread voter fraud in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia, but as WHYY's Katie Meyer reports, Philly's not really the place that won Pennsylvania for Joe Biden. Instead, it was a surge in voter turnout and the continued leftward shift in the suburbs that gave Biden the edge.

KATIE MEYER, BYLINE: In the Philly suburbs, there are a lot of voters like Carmen Ferrarello. He's 62, lives in Montgomery County and teaches English at the high school that soon-to-be first lady Jill Biden attended. He's also a lifelong Republican. But that changed when Trump came on the scene.

CARMEN FERRARELLO: The party just genuflected at his altar. I remember that press conference where they had this long table, where every person who spoke talked about how wonderful Donald Trump was. And you watch the news outlets. They talked about how it was something you would see in North Korea.

MEYER: In 2016, Ferrarello wrote in former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan as a protest vote for president. But in the midterms, he was so frustrated with Republicans, he voted a straight Democratic ticket. This year, he voted for Joe Biden, and he switched his party registration, too.

FERRARELLO: And that was enough for me. It was enough. I will never go back to that party.

MEYER: Ferrarello has company. The Philly suburbs - which are made up of Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Delaware counties - have been trending bluer for years. From 2012 to 2016, Hillary Clinton narrowly increased Democratic margins in two of the four counties. This year, turnout surged for both parties, but Biden improved on Clinton's performance in all four suburban counties. In the four combined, Biden won by some 280,000 votes, almost 100,000 more than Clinton. Frank Custer, who for years has worked in Democratic politics in Montgomery County, says he thinks people just hated Trump more after one term.

FRANK CUSTER: People who were apolitical or very nonpolitical became just really obsessed with getting rid of Trump, really. And I think that the turnout was strictly in response to that.

MEYER: But in Pennsylvania and many other states, this wasn't a great election for Democrats across the board. It looks like lots of voters split tickets for state and national races. Ben Forstate, an election analyst in Western Pennsylvania, says lots of down-ballot Democrats underperformed expectations.

BEN FORSTATE: People were kind of thinking that this was going to be a change election, and it wasn't for almost everybody besides Donald Trump.

MEYER: That was the mindset Mary Schultz brought to the election. She's 51 and lives in Montgomery County. She used to be a Republican but switched parties. This year, she voted for all Democrats, except her congressman, Brian Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, who represents the state's 1st district, was expected to have a tight race this year, but he won by more than 13 points. Schultz says his office helped her fix a mail issue.

MARY SCHULTZ: And my husband's like, I can't believe you're going to vote for Brian Fitzpatrick. And you know what? I understand his points. And it was my vote, and I chose to vote my way because I could not have - I mean, I could've lived with myself, but I would've felt guilty had I not voted for him.

MEYER: Provisional ballots are still being tabulated in Pennsylvania, but it appears Biden has won the state by well over 50,000 votes. Trump won the state by 44,000 in 2016.

For NPR News, I'm Katie Meyer in Philadelphia.


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