President Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania on Monday has rekindled speculation that in order to retain the White House, Trump must win the Keystone State in 2020. Former vice president Joe Biden, who was born in the state, has emphasized his ability to win it back for the Democrats, going so far as to locate his campaign headquarters in Philadelphia. There’s only one problem with this narrative: It’s wrong.
Trump would surely benefit from Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, but he doesn’t need them to win. Arizona, Wisconsin and Maine are the states to watch; if Trump wins there, he’s highly likely to win a second term.
The 2016 election proved that Trump can lose the popular vote by a significant margin and still win if he carries the Republican core that went for Mitt Romney and just a few select states. Even in the 2018 debacle, Republican candidates won in virtually every state Romney carried. Excepting Kansas, a deep-red state that voted Democratic for governor only because the GOP nominee — former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach — was toxic, Arizona was the only Romney state that Republicans lost.