Overall, Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are divided into six indigenous TV markets: Erie; Johnstown/Altoona; Harrisburg, Philadelphia; Pittsburgh and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Plus, there are six disparate counties scattered around the state that watch out of state TV, from places as far-flung as Buffalo, New York City, Youngstown, Elmira and Washington, D.C. Below is a primer on their vote totals from the 2008 Obama-McCain campaign.
Then-Sen. Barack Obama took 54.7 percent of the vote in 2008 that produced a winning margin of 620,478 votes – he won 18 counties.
The Erie market consists of three counties – Erie, Warren and Crawford – and produced three percent of the total vote for president in 2008. Obama won 55 percent of that vote, which gave him a raw vote margin of +20,306 there. The outlook here is for Obama to do slightly worse than he did in 2008.
Eleven south central Pennsylvania counties comprise the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York TV market and produced 14.9 percent of the 2008 vote; Obama took 42.9 percent there. That produced a raw vote margin of -117,768. Obama carried Dauphin County and got nearly 44 percent in Lancaster. Republicans need a better vote here if Gov. Romney has any chance of taking the state.
Nine counties get their TV out of Johnstown/Altoona, which also includes Centre County, the only county in this market where Obama took more than 50 percent of the vote (he won Cambria with less than 50 percent). This market produced 5.5 percent of the vote in 2008; Obama took 43.6 percent of the vote which translated into a raw vote margin of -37,639. Obama’s vote totals should plummet in this region.
The Philadelphia TV market is the largest by viewership in the state, and all eight counties here went for Obama in 2008. Think of this market as three different levels: Philadelphia; the four suburban counties of Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware; and the three exurban counties of Berks, Lehigh and Northampton. Together it produced 41.6 percent of the 2008 vote – Obama won with 64 percent here, for a raw vote margin of +739,337. In just the four suburban counties Obama’s vote margin was +203,633. Romney’s recent polling strength has been boosted by his better than average margins in the ‘burbs. Remember that Obama’s margin in this market was greater than his overall state margin of victory. If Romney does in fact perform better in the ‘burbs, more pressure will be put on the Democrat GOTV machine in the city.
The Pittsburgh market produced 22.3 percent of the 2008 vote, and Obama won with 50.2 percent of the vote. His raw vote margin here of +19,787 all came from Allegheny County. Obama lost the 13 other counties in the market, and his margin without Allegheny County was -81,109. Republicans have performed progressively better in this market in the past several elections and would need to add to that trend for Romney to have a chance.
Obama won just four of the 16 counties in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market, which propelled him to a 50.4 percent win, with a vote margin of +12,200. This is Bob Casey country, but Republicans believe they can cut into Obama’s 11,000+ advantage in Luzerne County, the largest in the market.
The six out of state market counties produced two percent of the 2008 vote; Obama took 43.6 percent for a raw vote margin of -14,479.
A veteran GOP political consultant, Chris Nicholas serves as Political Director at the Pennsylvania Business Council, where he directs PEG PAC, the state’s oldest pro business political action committee.