Lately, however, the Keystone State hasn’t had much swing. It’s voted for the Democratic candidate in six straight contests.
Earlier this week, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball released their first electoral map of the 2016 election season. It included seven swing states but Pennsylvania was not one of them. Instead PA was rated “Lean Democratic”.
This outcome is unusual when you consider not just past conventional wisdom but 2012 raw vote totals.
For example, President Obama received 51.96% of the vote in Pennsylvania. Yet in three of the states Sabato considers 2016 toss-ups, the President got a higher percentage of the vote: Nevada (52.36%), Iowa (51.99%) and New Hampshire (51.98%).
Today writers Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley elaborated on their ratings.
They pointed out that Pennsylvania is what FiveThrityEight’s Nate Silver has termed an “inelastic” state.
Basically, PA has a relatively small amount of independent voters. For instance, of all the 2012 swing states, Pennsylvania had by far the fewest percentage, 20%, of independents. Additionally, we have the highest percentage of registered Democrats (45%) and Republicans (35%).
Therefore, while Democrats have a small advantage in PA, it is incredibly difficult for Republicans to surmount it.
Remember, in those last six presidential contests the Democrats did not take an overwhelming share of the vote:
So, except for the 2008 contest which took place in the midst of an economic meltdown, Democratic numbers have been kept under 52%.
All this evidence seems to suggest that Pennsylvania isn’t much of a blue state but it is still rather difficult to imagine how it can become a red state again.
*In 1992 and 1996, independent candidate Ross Perot received a significant share of the vote.