WASHINGTON – As President Donald Trump levels baseless allegations of voter fraud to falsely claim the election was stolen from him, he's mostly blamed activity in the largest cities in key battleground states that he lost.
But the accusations ignore a critical point.
President-elect Joe Biden fared about the same in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Trump actually won more votes in Philadelphia and Detroit than he did four years ago.
Instead, Biden narrowly carried Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by widening support in what's become a new Democratic stronghold: the suburbs and exurbs around cities.
President Donald Trump claims voter fraud in cities, but suburbs actually lost him the election.
More: How Joe Biden flipped the electoral map and won the presidency with room to spare
Trump lashed out at cities in a fundraising email Wednesday, boasting, "Democrat-run cities, like Detroit and Philadelphia, two of the most politically corrupt places in America, cannot be responsible for deciding the outcome of this race."
The allegations mirror rhetoric that Republicans have for years directed at Detroit and Philadelphia, each predominantly Democratic with large Black populations, about their ability to hold fair elections.
The city-suburban breakdown, however, shows that Philadelphia and Detroit did not "decide" the election. The same is true for Milwaukee. Even in Atlanta, which saw huge turnout to help Biden pull ahead in Georgia, Democrats made even bigger gains in its suburbs.
In Philadelphia County, which includes all of Philadelphia, Trump received 128,000 votes as of Wednesday, with more absentee ballots still to be counted. That's nearly 20,000 more votes than the 109,000 votes Trump got in Philadelphia in 2016. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Trump carried four wards in the city, two more than he did in 2016.
Biden won Philadelphia, carrying 81% of the vote to Trump's 18%, a smaller spread than Clinton's 82%-15% margin in 2016.
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Biden received 576,000 votes in Philadelphia, about 8,000 less than Clinton. It amounts to a 448,000-vote advantage over Trump in Philadelphia, smaller than the 475,000-vote advantage Clinton got in 2016.
Conversely, Biden racked up the score in three suburban counties around Philadelphia. During the campaign, Trump warned Biden would "destroy the beautiful suburbs," but voters in those communities seemed to reject that message.
Biden won Pennsylvania's Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties, each in the outskirts of Philadelphia, collectively 62%-38% over Trump, building a 269,000-vote advantage in just those three counties.
In 2016, Clinton won the same three counties by a smaller 58% to 39% margin. And because turnout was lower, she only got a 186,000-vote advantage.
That means Democrats picked up a net gain of 83,000 votes this year in those three counties.Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by 44,000 votes. Biden's lead in Pennsylvania this year is 54,000 votes and expected to grow.
In Wayne County, Michigan, home of Detroit and surrounding communities, Biden beat Trump by an identical 37 percentage points as Clinton. Biden got 68% in Wayne County while Trump received 31%. In 2016, Clinton received 66% to Trump's 29%.
But in just the city of Detroit, Trump received 5,000 more votes than four years ago, 12,600 overall, up from 7,700 in 2016. Biden received 1,000 fewer votes than the 234,800 Clinton got in Detroit.
More: Oakland County sees huge voter turnout and a blue wave of winners
Instead, the greatest growth for Biden came in Oakland County, which include suburbs north of Detroit: Biden beat Trump there 434,000 votes to 326,000 votes (57%-43%). Four years ago, Clinton beat Trump there 343,000 votes to 289,00 votes (54%-46%). That's a net gain of about 54,000 votes for Democrats in just this county.
In Washtenaw County, west of Detroit and home to Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, Biden beat Trump by 101,000 votes, while Clinton beat Trump by 78,000 votes four years ago.
That's a net gain of 23,000 for Biden. Trump's margin over Clinton in Michigan in 2016 was less than 11,000 votes. Biden won Michigan this year by 149,000 votes.
In Wisconsin, Biden expanded margins the most in the suburbs around Milwaukee and Madison.
Growth was modest in Milwaukee, where Biden beat Trump by just 3,000 more votes than Clinton did in 2016.
But in the rest of Milwaukee County, which includes outlying areas, Biden beat Trump by 17 percentage points, nearly 37,000 votes, four years after Clinton won the same areas by 10 percentage points, more than 19,000 votes. That’s a net gain for Democrats of more than 17,000 votes.
More: Where Joe Biden won Wisconsin: Dane County and the Milwaukee County suburbs
Biden won Madison, the state's capital and home to the University of Wisconsin, by about 70 percentage points and almost 113,000 votes. Clinton won by 63 points and 97,000 votes. That’s a net gain for Democrats of almost 16,000 votes.
Biden won the rest of Dane County, suburbs outside of Madison, by 37 percentage points and about 68,000 votes. Clinton won the rest of Dane County by 32 points and about 49,000 votes. They generated a net gain for Democrats of more than 19,000 votes.
To turn Georgia blue, Democrats combined higher turnout in Atlanta with explosive gains in suburbs in the metro area around Atlanta. Georgia, where Biden leads, is still considered too close to call and subject to a hand recount.
In Fulton County, Georgia, which includes most of Atlanta, Biden beat Trump by 240,000 votes while Clinton won by 180,000 votes. That's a net gain of 60,000 votes for Democrats.
Near Atlanta, Biden won DeKalb County by 50,000 more votes than Clinton did in 2016 and Clayton County by 14,000 more votes.
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But two growing suburban counties further from Atlanta, Gwinnett and Cobb counties, swung even more for Biden. Collectively Biden beat Trump by 132,000 in these counties, while Clinton won them collectively by 26,000 votes. That's a net gain of 106,000 for Biden.
Lawsuits focus on the cities
The Trump campaign has been largely unsuccessful in court with their barrage of post-election lawsuits.
After promising "shocking" evidence of voter fraud in Michigan, the Trump campaign Wednesday released 234 pages of affidavits from Republican poll watchers that largely involved a center in Detroit where absentee ballots were counted.
But the Detroit Free Press reported the affidavits centered mostly on anecdotal complaints from Republican poll watchers. Some felt intimidated by election workers they thought were rude and cited what they thought was suspicious behavior. Others said they were obstructed from doing their jobs because they were asked to stand 6 feet away. The allegations do not show proof of widespread fraud or egregious misconduct.
More: Nine legal experts say Trump's lawsuit challenging election results in Pennsylvania is dead on arrival
In Philadelphia, the Trump campaign has argued falsely that Republican poll watchers were denied access to observe workers count absentee ballots in Philadelphia. In reality, they were asked to follow social-distance guidelines. In the lone legal win nationally for the Trump campaign, a judge allowed their observers to stand a little closer as Philadelphia continues to count ballots.
Trump on Wednesday singled out Philadelphia city commissioner, Al Schmidt, accusing him of refusing to look at a "mountain of corruption & dishonesty" in a tweet. Schmidt had just appeared on CNN to defend the city from accusations, calling wild accusations that dead people voted, for example, made up.
"I have seen the most fantastical things on social media, making completely ridiculous allegations that have no basis in fact at all, and see them spread," Schmidt said. "I realize a lot of people are happy about this election and a lot of people are not happy about this election. One thing I cannot comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies."
He added: "I think people should be mindful that there are bad actors who are lying to them."
Staff writer Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.