Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Keystone Prize

Jay Cost has a great piece about why it's been so difficult for Republicans to flip my erstwhile home state of Pennsylvania back from blue to red.  The answer is simple: Philly has come up big for the Democrats time and time again.
The non-Philly portion of the state has slowly been trending red since 1988. Democrats hype their gains in the Philadelphia suburban counties, but often fail to mention how Republicans have more than made up ground in the exurban counties of York and Lancaster, as well as taken advantage of the collapse of the Democratic coalition in Western Pennsylvania, at least on the presidential level. In 1988 Michael Dukakis won five of the six counties that comprise metropolitan Pittsburgh; in 2008 Barack Obama won only one of them. 
So why hasn’t the rest of the state tipped toward the GOP, especially given how hard George W. Bush worked to flip the Keystone State in 2000 and 2004?
 
The answer: The Democrats have done a monumental job of mobilizing the vote in Philadelphia County. In 1988 Pennsylvania minus Philly was 0.5 percent more Republican than the country writ large. Twenty years later, in 2008, it was roughly 2.5 percent more Republican. But Philadelphia County went from being 23 percent more Democratic in 1988 to 30 percent more Democratic in 2008.
 
Not only have Democrats moved Philadelphia leftward, they have done an expert job of keeping turnout growing cycle after cycle. This is extremely impressive because, as a share of the state’s population, Philadelphia County has been in a slow but steady decline (from upwards of 18 percent in the 1970s to about 12 percent today). What’s more, the county is now just 45 percent white, and non-whites are less likely to vote than whites.
 
I cannot overstate this: The prowess of the Democratic operation in Philadelphia over the last decade alone is simply incredible. Even though the population has been flat since 2000, Barack Obama managed to net 130,000 more votes out of the county than Al Gore!
The population of the living in Philadelphia County is pretty flat, but I'll bet the dead have had insane levels of turnout in the last three election cycles. In any case, Cost notes that the opportunity for an upset in PA is real for Romney and the GOP, no matter what the spin from the Obama side. I

'd agree, for one simple reason -- the Romney team is nothing if not strategically smart. They're not doing this for a Hail Mary -- they're doing this because they're trying for more than just 270 electoral votes and a simple majority. By aiming for 300, they create multiple ways of getting to 270. That was probably a pipe dream 40 days ago. Now? We'll see. But no matter how good the Dems feel about the state polls and their claims about a superior ground game, I don't think the Romney team would trade places.

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