On August 12, the Cook Political Report placed Pennsylvania and her 20 electoral votes in the toss-up column. Yet, let’s be honest. The Keystone State is probably going to go Democratic. Like California, Pennsylvania hasn’t gone Republican in a national election since 1988.
Pennsylvania is a weird state. It’s aptly described as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Alabama in between. Republicans continue to control the state legislature, and up until 2014 the governor’s mansion. In 2011, the GOP made huge gains in the courthouse races, ending up controlling 51 of the 67 county governments. The Republicans were able to takeover Westmoreland County that year, which hasn’t gone Republican in more than 50 years–and has a heavy Democratic voter registration advantage.
[Image Courtesy of Cooke Political Report]
The Pennsylvanian Republican Party saw this as a sign that the state could slide into the Romney column during the 2012 general election. Romney drew almost 30,000 people to a rally in Bucks County (one of the counties outside Philly that decides elections in the state), which commentators noted a) doesn’t happen in Bucks County, let alone for a Republican candidate running in Pennsylvania. Yet, the “we’re going to win PA” balloon popped for the GOP; Obama took the state 52/46 over Romney.
So, Republicans do really well, until presidential years. It must drive GOP operatives mad. You can win the governorship, the state legislature, the majority of the courthouses, and the state still goes blue when the national contests come around. To make things sting even worse, half of the NRA’s national membership lives within a 4-hour drive of Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania is a cruel mistress. She has been since 1992 and I think we should continue to assume so for 2016. Moreover, winning Pennsylvania is nice, but it’s not a state that’s a must-win. Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado are must-win states for next year’s election. The resources spent in those states are probably going to be seen as much more critical against the Democratic machine that waits for us.
Is Pennsylvania a lost cause, or is there a glimmer of hope? Comment below.
Correction: Sorry, folks ... I was tired. It's Cook, not Cooke, Political Report. We apologize for the error, and it's been corrected in the post. Thanks to Ace Of Spades Decision Desk's Brandon Finnigan for pointing this out. Also, give him and AoSHQDD a follow. Great elections site to follow by the way.