Will Gun Owners Keep Pennsylvania Red?

With Pennsylvania expected to be a crucially important state for both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, gun owners could provide the president with the margin of victory… if they turn out. On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, the unofficial dean of Pennsylvania politics Salena Zito gives us a preview of what to watch for on Tuesday night as the returns start coming in.

While we most likely won’t know tonight who won Pennsylvania, since mail-in ballots can be accepted for several more days, we should be able to see if Donald Trump is performing where he needs to with the in-person voting. In western Pennsylvania, according to Zito, that starts with keeping Biden’s margin of victory in Allegheny County to around 60% of the vote. Trump also needs to run up his numbers in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Washington, Fayette, Westmoreland, Greene, and Cambria Counties — This cluster of western Pennsylvania counties turned out in a big way for Trump in 2016. He needs not only to match his 2016 success but also outperform those numbers by 3 percentage points to have a good night. Fayette, Washington, and Cambria had a Democratic majority in voter registrations in 2016, but Trump won them with at least 60% of the vote.

As Zito notes, the voter registration in three of these counties has flipped from a Democratic to Republican majority over the past four years, though many of the Democrats may well have been voting Republican in presidential elections for a few cycles. This part of the state is also home to a lot of gun owners, with Washington County having one of the largest Friends of NRA dinners in the country for many years running, and a high turnout in the southwestern portion of the state will help counter Biden’s lead in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.

Zito also points to several counties in the northern part of the state that she believes could deliver larger margins to Trump in 2020 than they did four years ago.

Tioga, Bradford, Lycoming, and Clinton Counties — Trump needs to increase turnout in these areas by 2.5%. He also needs to hold neighboring Wyoming and Susquehanna, but their cultural connection to Lackawanna could be a drag.

Erie County — This is the bellwether. Trump barely won there in 2016, with 48% to Clinton’s 46.4%. He is struggling to match that and needs to break even there if he is going to win the state.

Zito tells me that many voters in these counties skeptically viewed Trump in 2016 as another New York City liberal, not all that different from Hillary Clinton, but if the Trump campaign successfully targeted these voters this election cycle, he could gain ground thanks to voters who stayed home four years ago. This is another part of the state that’s home to a lot of gun owners and Second Amendment supporters, and Biden’s gun ban plan won’t play well there. If Trump is able to pick up just a few thousand votes in each of these northern counties, he could once again turn Pennsylvania red and make Joe Biden’s path to victory much more difficult. In fact, Zito says she thinks Pennsylvania is actually more critical to Biden’s path to victory than to Trump’s, though you’ll have to watch the video window above to find out why she thinks that’s the case.

Mar 04, 2021 8:00 PM ET