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Biden, Trump win their parties' presidential nominations in Pennsylvania primary

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Primary voting wrapped up last night in Pennsylvania, a state that has become critical in deciding who will win the White House. Four years ago, President Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. But four years before that, in 2016, after years of preferring Democratic presidential candidates, the state's voters moved to Donald Trump. He won the state by just over 40,000 votes against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Now, while the outcome of Tuesday night's presidential primary results were expected, Biden and Trump won their party nominations, there were concerns that stood out among voters. To learn more about this, we're joined by Carmen Russell-Sluchansky from member station WHYY in Philadelphia. Carmen, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

CARMEN RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY, BYLINE: Thank you. Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So what issues were important to the voters that you spoke with ahead of Tuesday's primaries?

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: Well, that depends on whether you're asking Republicans or Democrats, really. Republicans I talked to mostly brought up border security and inflation. So, for example, I talked to Kim Crowley, a professional house cleaner, at the Trump rally here a couple of weeks ago, and this is what she had to say.

KIM CROWLEY: We are in such a state of despair in America today that our only hope is Trump. You know, I work 40, 50 hours a week, and I could barely afford groceries, gas for my car, you know? And everybody is struggling.

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: So as you can hear, she equates Trump with lower gas and food prices.

MARTIN: And what about Democrats?

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: Well, Democrats, on the other hand, are focused on abortion and what they see as threats to democracy. So, like, when I was up in Allentown, I talked to Nephtalie Charles, a student at Cedar Crest College.

NEPHTALIE CHARLES: Well, I believe that women should still maintain their abortion rights because it's their body, and sometimes abortion is good for their health, for their physical and mental health. So yeah, I'd probably be voting for Biden for that.

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: That said, There are also, you know, a number of contested statewide seats, and so that's another reason people were coming out rather than just specific issues.

MARTIN: To that point, one of the things that we've seen in other states is people sort of using their primary votes as a way to protest or make a statement about the Israel-Hamas war, specifically Biden's stance on it. Did that make its appearance in Pennsylvania? What did it look like?

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: Oh, yes, definitely. So, there was a movement here similar to what you saw in Michigan. Here they call it Uncommitted PA. Now, it was a little different than in what you saw in Michigan because there wasn't an uncommitted choice on the ballot that they could just choose. So they had to ask protest voters to write it in. Well, official results are still coming in, but what we know so far from the counties is that there are over 58,000 write-ins on the Democratic primary ballots.

Now, we can't really be sure how many are actually for uncommitted 'cause, like I said, official results are still coming. But in the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to hear from several Arab American voters and others who are upset about the U.S. military aid to Israel, such as Noor Bowman, a student at Drexel, who was at an Eid prayer and protest.

NOOR BOWMAN: I can't predict what's going to happen, but what I can do is base my decision on what I know is happening now. And what I know is that Joe Biden is a horrible, horrible, horrible leader with regard to what's happening in Gaza.

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: So for its part, the Biden campaign has said that the president is working towards an end to the violence in Gaza and Israel. More than 50,000 votes may not sound like much, but we've got to remember Biden won Pennsylvania by over 80,000 votes in 2020.

MARTIN: OK. So very briefly, Pennsylvania has the most electoral votes out of any state that's seen as competitive this year. Very close races as we saw in 2016 and 2020. Any clues that help us look forward to November?

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: Yeah. Well, the turnout was very low, and that, you know, reflects what's going on with the polls, that there's just not the same enthusiasm as before.

MARTIN: That was WHYY's Carmen Russell-Sluchansky. Carmen, thank you.

RUSSELL-SLUCHANSKY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Carmen Russell-Sluchansky