Start Your Engines: The General Election Begins Now 

Larry Ceisler's 2024 Primary Election Takeaways

After one of the most predictable primary election days in Pennsylvania history, we’re off to the races until November 5. The big takeaways from primary election day are all about tomorrow and the weeks to come.  

Strap in, folks. It’s going to be a long and eventful six and a half months.  


No surprises.   

Across the board, the race outcomes were predictable. In the Democratic race for attorney general, you had too many candidates from the southeastern part of the state, so Eugene DePasquale—who was smart to move back home to Allegheny County—was always destined to win it, even though Joe Khan, Keir Bradford-Grey, Jack Stollsteimer and Jared Solomon were all good candidates. DePasquale is going to be a very credible candidate in the fall, as he’s won two statewide elections. But the GOP really wants to win that office back: Republican Dave Sunday, who’s a prosecutor, is also a credible candidate, and the GOP is going to make crime a big issue. That race will be very competitive.  

Some would consider Democrat Erin McClelland’s victory in the treasurer’s race an upset, but it was a race that no one knew anything about. When you have a woman from Allegheny County running against a man from Erie, she’s going to win.  

But in the fall, both the treasurer’s race and the auditor general’s race—in which Malcolm Kenyatta was always going to be the nominee—the result will track with the presidential race and, to a lesser degree, the Senate race. It will be a close race between Biden and Trump and between Bob Casey and Dave McCormick; the result in the row office races is really out of those candidates’ hands.


Starting now, all eyes on the top of the ticket. 

The two marquee races will be the presidential and the Senate race. Pennsylvania is a battleground for both, and the amount of money that will be spent on those two races could more than balance the budget of the city of Pittsburgh. Right now, Biden and Casey have the edge, but these are going to be very hard-fought races.  

In the Senate race, McCormick really has to recast himself because his 2022 primary against Mehmet Oz really damaged him. There’s resonance from that, and the Casey campaign will pick up on the commercials that Oz used. Whether it’s McCormick not living full-time in Pennsylvania, even though he’s from here, or making his money in a hedge fund that does a lot of business in China, there’s a lot of fodder for Casey.  

Casey’s challenge is that, even though he’s a very familiar name and is a hard worker, voters can’t point to anything that he’s done. That’s the problem with being a member of the Senate: You don’t stand out unless you’re very active on social media and make a lot of noise. Bob Casey is a workhorse and not a showhorse, and that’s a very admirable trait for five and a half out of every six years of a Senate term. He will have to educate people about what he’s done as a member of the Senate. 


Don’t sleep on the state-level action—there’s plenty of drama there. 

In Harrisburg, both General Assembly majorities are up for grabs. Can House Democrats increase their razor-thin majority, and can Senate Republicans hold their more comfortable majority? Those will be determined by what happens on the ballot above them.  

Two years ago, Democrats grabbed the House because Josh Shapiro won the governor’s race by 15 points. If you don’t have anybody winning by double digits on the top of the ticket, what happens in the state Senate and state House? House Dems will probably maintain their majority, but will they be able to increase it so that they don’t have to worry about a special election every few weeks when members retire or change jobs or get sick?  

Senate Republicans are probably in a good position to hold their majority because Senate Dems didn’t take full advantage of redistricting when they had the opportunity.  


Protest votes in April aren’t necessarily protest votes in November … but they can’t be ignored either.  

In the Philadelphia five-county region plus Allegheny County, roughly 36,000 Democrats chose to write in another candidate’s name, or in most cases, to write in “uncommitted.” Among Republicans, the probable protest vote was even more pronounced: Nikki Haley, who suspended her campaign almost two months ago, got more than 150,000 votes statewide—almost 17 percent of Republicans voted for her.  

Are voters on both sides just making a statement? I’d expect they are, and they’ll come home to their parties’ nominees in November. But at least on the Democratic side, if they don’t, and Biden loses Pennsylvania and the presidency along with it, at least those voters went into the booth with their eyes wide open.  


The person with the most influence over the fall election won’t be on the ballot.  

What happens in Pennsylvania from Biden and Trump all the way down to the state House is somewhat dependent on Gov. Josh Shapiro. He is going to set a tone in this election, and I think his popularity will help Democrats. If he actively engages in the campaign, Biden will be smart to take his advice.  

But how he engages will matter, and I don’t think Shapiro is going to be a flame thrower. He knows he has to govern a very divided state, and so far he’s governed by producing results and not engaging in petty partisan rhetoric. If Democrats are expecting Shapiro to be inciteful, I think they’ll be surprised to find he’s more insightful.  

Larry Ceisler in a suit and button-down shirt smiling at the camera.

Larry Ceisler is founder of Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy

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