The emerging idea is that Pennsylvania and its twenty electoral votes could be the tipping point of the 2016 presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
In a FiveThirtyEight discussion about possible shifts in the electoral college map, PA was described as a state that may be trending red.
“Pennsylvania, on the other hand — the polling has been pretty competitive there, it’s been trending ever-so-slightly red as compared with the national average, and two-thirds of the population there is within the Northeastern sphere of influence, where Trump seems to overperform a bit,” founder Nate Silver wrote.
“The question in Pennsylvania is what happens in the Philadelphia suburbs,” senior political analyst Harry Enten added. “There are a lot of well-educated white voters there, and I do think Trump’s lack of appeal to them could end up killing whatever shot he has in the state because those in the western part of the state trended to the right.”
Obama’s Campaign Strategy
Former Obama Administration speechwriter Jon Favreau and Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer host a weekly podcast for the website The Ringer. Their guest last week was David Plouffe.
Plouffe, a Delaware native, was President Obama’s campaign manager in 2008 and joined the White House to oversee the 2012 effort there. He has also served as an informal advisor to the Clinton campaign from the beginning and is generally considered the most talented Democratic operative at the moment.
While it was Plouffe’s comments about Donald Trump that got the headlines, he made some especially intriguing remarks about the Keystone State. Plouffe was asked what states Barack Obama won that Hillary Clinton should most be concerned about losing. He felt Colorado and Virginia were more likely to flip than any Rust Belt states.
“I’m not a huge believer in, you know, Trump is gonna flip Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania,” Plouffe said. “The Pennsylvania thing we saw this twice right?”
“I know,” Favreau answered.
“McCain, Romney, ‘we’re gonna go win Pennsylvania’. I mean it would take the biggest acrobatic contortion of all-time for a Republican to win. Now, so that will be a test for Hillary Clinton. I mean, is she willing to win it by four or five instead of seven or eight. And when Ed Rendell calls, and says ‘You’ve got to drop everything else and come to Pennsylvania’. Does she say ‘You know Ed, thanks but no thanks’? I mean that’s gonna be a test for the campaign.”
“Or he’ll just say it in the press instead of calling,” Favreau interjected.
“Right, he’ll do that first, then call her. Right,” Plouffe responded as all three Obama alums laughed about Rendell’s media proclivity.
What makes this significant is that Plouffe admits that the Obama campaign let Romney eat into their lead in PA because they felt their floor was still enough to secure a victory. In 2012, that ended up being the case but the dropoff from 2008 made it seem that PA was becoming a bit redder.
So heading into the general election contest, each party has a preconception about Pennsylvania. The Democrats are sure they can’t lose while Republicans are positive this will finally be the time they pry it away. Whoever’s right may end up not only winning the Keystone State but the presidency as well.
UPDATE: Plouffe reiterated his beliefs when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton’s latest ad buy wouldn’t include Pennsylvania: