PA-16: Can Hartman Actually Win? (Maps)

Going into 2016, Democrats were hoping to add PA-6 and/or PA-7 as another competitive Congressional race in Pennsylvania alongside PA-8.

Neither of those elections were able reach the next level but a surprise emerged out of central PA.

The PA-16 contest has surprisingly become that second opportunity. Last month, the DCCC named it an emerging race and the Cook Political Report moved it from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican”.

Just this week Democratic nominee Christina Hartman drew notice for her performance campaigning with VP nominee Tim Kaine.

While the GOP seems to have a good candidate in State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, the fact that incumbent Congressman Joe Pitts is retiring makes this the best shot the Dems will ever have at this seat.

Not to mention “the Trump factor”.

Despite all this, though, can a Democrat really win in this district? Barack Obama narrowly carried it in 2008 by a 50% to 49% margin but the lines have been redrawn since then. In 2012, Romney won by nearly six points (52.4% to 46.3%) and Congressman Pitts performed even better (54.9% to 39%).

So what would flipping PA-16 involve? To determine that we can take a look at a 2012 presidential map of the district broken down by voting district.

PA-16 Obama vs. Romney

Sky blue signifies Obama received 50%-53%, royal blue signifies Obama received 53%-58%, blue signifies Obama received 58%-63%, navy signifies Obama received 63% or more. Light salmon signifies Romney received 50%-53%, tomato signifies Romney received 53%-58%, red signifies Romney received 58%-63%, maroon signifies Romney received 63% or more. Yellow signifies ties.

The President took advantage of the cities included in the district by easily winning Reading, Lancaster and Coatesville. Reading’s suburbs aren’t really included in PA-16 but those of the latter two cities are. Obama did well south of Coatesville, yet only OK in the areas outside of Lancaster. Overall, the massive maroon red of Lancaster County proved too much.

Compare that to Rep. Pitts’ performance against 2012 Democratic nominee Aryanna Strader (two independents in this race also siphoned off about six percent of the vote).

PA-16 Pitts

Sky blue signifies Strader received 50%-53%, royal blue signifies Strader received 53%-58%, blue signifies Strader received 58%-63%, navy signifies Strader received 63% or more. Light salmon signifies Pitts received 50%-53%, tomato signifies Pitts received 53%-58%, red signifies Pitts received 58%-63%, maroon signifies Pitts received 63% or more. Yellow signifies ties.

As you can see Pitts performed much better than Romney just about everywhere. The key spot, though, are the suburbs around Lancaster. Townships like West and East Hempfield, West and East Lampeter and Manheim.

Hartman’s team should also look at trying to pick off some boroughs in Lancaster County where the shades of red are lighter. Several visits to small communities such as Elizabethtown, Ephrata, Lititz and Mt. Joy may well pay off down the line.

Nonetheless, the advantages enjoyed by the Republicans in the more rural areas of Lancaster County and the Southwestern part of Chester County are intimidating.

Hartman would have to run an extraordinary race, but there just may be a chance if the electoral winds shift her way.   

10 Responses

  1. I agree with you Policy Guy, but I would not characterize the “Danzig Corridor” as “virtually uninhabited”. I live in the “corridor” and went from the 6th to the 16th with a pen stroke. Hartman will win Berks County.

  2. Leaving aside the quesiton of whether Hartman can win or not, this district is further evidence of the critical need for reforming how Pennsylvania handles Congressional and Legislative reapportionment. Not only aren’t the suburbs of Reading included in this district, the umblical cord that connects Reading to the rest of this district is virtually unihabited. And this isn’t the most mishapened district in Pennsylvania.

  3. Tired –

    You’re missing the point, but also identified it… Houghton doing *better* by three points in 2014 vs. 2012 is remarkable. Compare every other district’s 2012 to 2014 difference. It’s not often a Democrat does better (and 3 points is a lot) in a midterm versus a presidential… I’d say Hartman’s floor is around 46.

  4. CMD: Houghton lost 58 to 42. That’s 16 points. It’s only 3 points better than Strader did. If that is a “precedent for Democrats not doing too badly here” then the answer to the question is Hartman has no chance.

  5. Both Jim and John make great points. A Libertarian WILL make an impact, mostly taking away from Smucker. And Tom Houghton was a much better candidate than most other candidates we’ve seen in the 16th district, so there’s a precedent for Democrats not doing too badly here.

    Is this seat likely to flip? No. But is it possible? It’s certainly looking like a possibility, but only in this year.

  6. i agree with Jim. The Libertarian will certainly pull votes from Smucker–who seems not to be campaigning at all.

  7. Strader was a terrible candidate who essentially did not campaign – there is no mention here of Tom Houghton, who ran a damn good campaign under the circumstances and got 42.5% in 2014, which most agree was a near-Republican wave. Houghton was probably a better campaigner than Hartman, but without the benefits of incumbency, and the Libertarian candidate on the ballot (I live in this district – I can attest, that guy will get a good 3 to 5 percent), this could be a perfect storm.

  8. Nick, It’s also worth noting that there is a Libertarian candidate on the ballot that may have an impact.

Comments are closed.

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