Day By Day

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- The TAP Assessment

The American Perspective has a silly article on the Pennsylvania political races, arguing that a big Democrat win there would help to put Hillary in the White House. Talk about non-sequiturs!

Still, there are a couple of paragraphs outlining the problems Republicans face in the Keystone State:

Pennsylvania is a special problem [for Republicans] because over the last four presidential elections it has become increasingly Democratic, which will make it difficult for Santorum to rely on President Bush to help get him over the top. [T]he RNC will have 20 full-time staff in the state working on the Santorum race and the contest for governor, which is shaping up as a face-off between former Pittsburgh Steeler wide-receiver Lynn Swann and the incumbent Democrat, and former DNC chair, Ed Rendell.

For Republicans to have any chance of winning statewide in Pennsylvania, they have to offset the huge deficit they face in Philadelphia. Bush lost Pennsylvania in 2004 by 144,000 votes out of 5.7 million cast. He lost Philadelphia by 412,000.

The way Republicans have traditionally offset the Philadelphia Effect is to focus on the Philly suburbs, particularly the Republican strongholds like Chester and Bucks counties. The problem is that a lot of the GOP’s suburban support was driven by an anti-Philadelphia grievance that is no longer as intense as it once was.

Rendell was so popular as a reform mayor of Philadelphia, even in the ‘burbs, that he managed to overcome the intense statewide antipathy to the big, troubled city to win the governor’s race in 2002, one of the only things Democrats had to cheer about that year. So having Rendell on the ballot this November, even though he’s been in trouble with voters for some tax initiatives, is not going to aid the GOP strategy in the western suburbs. Which means Santorum is running uphill the whole way, and that is hard to do from behind.

Read it here.

The problem the Republicans face in Pennsylvania is demographic, not personality driven. Over the past twenty years Republican voters have been dying off or moving out to red States while Hispanic Democrats have been flooding into the State, especially in the eastern counties.

The anti-Philly animus is real and of long standing. I think the article over-states the popularity of Rendell by a long shot. The declining Republican vote in the east is due more to demographics than to Rendell's popularity. And, he completely misunderstands the Republican strategy for this year. No longer are the Republicans focusing on the Philly burbs.

The presence of Swann in the race scrambles the old calculations. Democrats used to be able to count on a big vote in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, but Swann will run very, very well there. He will also be trying to appeal to black voters in Philadelphia. Republicans are also making inroads into black communities in the middle of the state. Harrisburg's black City Council president this year switched parties, and his decision polled extremely well among black voters there.

It's true that Santorum has a long way to go, but he certainly isn't counting on President Bush to pull him up. Swann, on the other hand, may have coattails.

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