How this happened is illustrated by the ACP data. Fetterman significantly reduced his opponent’s margins of victory — relative to Biden’s 2020 performance against Trump — in three types of counties where Trump has done extraordinarily well.
In the ACP’s taxonomy, those three county types are known as the Middle Suburbs, Working Class Country, and Rural Middle America.
The Middle Suburbs. These types of suburban counties are Whiter and more working class than your typical inner-ring suburb, which tends to be more diverse, cosmopolitan and professional.
We often think of the suburbs as anti-Trump, but his large margins in Middle Suburbs across the country were key to his 2016 victory. Four years later, when Trump made veiled racial appeals to the “Suburban Housewives of America,” these are the places he probably meant to target.
In Pennsylvania’s Middle Suburbs, Fetterman limited Oz’s margin of victory to 11 points, significantly down from the 15-point margin Trump racked up in 2020, according to ACP data provided to me.
This mattered, because Middle Suburbs tend to be more populated than most other red-leaning county types, says Dante Chinni, the director and founder of ACP.
“There’s a lot of votes in those places,” Chinni told me. “They’re really important to Republicans, especially Trump Republicans.”
There are more than a dozen such counties in the state, Chinni said, including suburban counties outside Pittsburgh that still have a “blue-collar vibe.”
Working Class Country. These counties are even Whiter than Middle Suburbs and tend to be rural and sparsely populated. They often have low college education rates.
In Pennsylvania’s Working Class Country counties, Fetterman shaved Oz’s margin of victory to 27 points, down from Trump’s 2020 margin of 36 points. Such counties include ones along the state’s northern border or in the southwest corner of the state, abutting West Virginia.
Rural Middle America. These counties are also rural, but also tend to include a lot of small towns and smaller metro areas. They are somewhat less agriculture-dependent than Working Class Country.
In Pennsylvania’s Rural Middle America counties, Fetterman limited Oz’s gains to 31 points, down from Trump’s 37-point margin in 2020. As Chinni noted, nearly three dozen of these counties are spread throughout Pennsylvania’s vast heartland.
These three county types capture different elements of the Trump vote. The Middle Suburbs are right-leaning parts of the suburbs that shifted toward Trump even as other suburbs turned against him. Working Class Country and Rural Middle America are the sort of regions where reporters used to go on “Trump safaris” to seek out Republican voters in diners. “The fact that Fetterman narrowed the margins in all of them is a big deal,” Chinni said.
Fetterman still lost these counties by double digits, but he reduced the margins by 4-6 points over Biden. Fetterman was able to do this in both rural and more exurban/suburban red counties. At least some folks out there in Trumplandia listened to him.
I hope we don't continue to obsess with these mostly white "Trump Diner" voters, but they vote just like anyone else, and peeling them away from Trump is how Fetterman won.