May 17, 2012

IF NOTHING ELSE, MAKE HIM DEFEND:

Is Pennsylvania In Play for November? Maybe. (Stuart Rothenberg, 5/15/12, Roll Call)

Still, there are reasons for GOP strategists to look long and hard at the state this time, thinking 2012 could be different.
The GOP controls both chambers of the state Legislature, the governorship, one of the state's Senate seats and a large majority of the House delegation (in part because of creative mapmaking). George H. W. Bush carried the state in 1988, and in spite of the defeats in 2000 and 2004, those presidential contests in the state were close.

Potentially more important than historical considerations is the makeup of the state. Pennsylvania is an old state. Only Florida, West Virginia and Maine have a higher percentage of residents 65 years old or older, according to 2010 census data. And the Keystone State is white. Among the nation's dozen largest states, it ranks behind only Ohio for the lowest percentage of minority residents. Just more than one-fifth of Pennsylvania's population is minority, slightly above Ohio's 18.9 percent.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won both whites and voters 65 and older in 2008, according to the national exit poll, and the president is likely to be weaker in those two demographic groups again.

Pennsylvania is also well-known as a state with a large number of working-class whites, particularly in northeastern (Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, for example) and western Pennsylvania (Erie, Johnstown and Pittsburgh) -- the kind of people one GOP strategist says "have their names on their shirts when they are at work."

Candidate Obama had problems with those kinds of voters in 2008 -- county-level data shows he did worse than Kerry in 2004 in a swath of counties running from southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia through extreme southwestern Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and into Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. If anything, he seems weaker in those areas this year.

These voters don't have an automatic cultural connection to Obama (or to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney), and the president's recent announcement supporting same-sex marriage isn't likely to be a plus with them. Jobs, of course, remain a big issue with these voters, and whatever hope they had that Obama would turn the economy around has almost certainly evaporated.

Potentially, Romney could outperform most national Republicans in the southeastern corner of the state, as he is a better "cultural fit" there, particularly in Philadelphia's upscale suburbs (Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware counties).

Posted by at May 17, 2012 6:08 AM
  

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