Democrats have won Pennsylvania in six straight presidential elections, so what will it take for Republicans to flip the Keystone State?
That is the premise of an in-depth and informative study done by Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.
According to Wasserman, though, while this trend helps Democrats, it in no way guarantees victory.
To conduct the study, Wasserman examined the racial demographics in the fifteen states that were decided by less than ten points in 2012.
Those states make up 193 electoral votes. Four of them (totaling 52 EVs) went for Mitt Romney four years ago: Arizona (11); Georgia (16); Missouri (10); and North Carolina (15).
The other eleven (totaling 141 EVs) went for Barack Obama: Colorado (9); Florida (29); Iowa (6); Michigan (16); Minnesota (10); Nevada (6); New Hampshire (4); Ohio (18); Pennsylvania (20); Virginia (13); and Wisconsin (10).
Using exit poll data, he divided the 2012 electorate in these states into five groups: 1. whites with a college degree, 2. whites without a college degree, 3. African-Americans, 4. Latinos, and 5. Asians/Others.
When broken down this way, Pennsylvania’s 2012 electorate was 42.4% college-educated whites, 36.4% non-college whites, 13.1% blacks, 6.1% Latinos, and 2.0% Asians/Others.
Compared to the average of all fifteen states, PA has many more college-educated whites (in fact, second only to New Hampshire). The number of non-college whites and blacks is almost exactly average while there are far less Latino and Asian voters in the commonwealth.
When projected into 2016, the share of non-college whites plummeted to 33%. While the percentage of college-educated whites (44.2) and Latinos (7.2) rose slightly and black (13.4) and Asian (2.3) stayed pretty much flat.
With that information, you can now determine what it would take for a Republican to convert Mitt Romney’s 46.6% into 50.1%.
The next Republican presidential nominee will, according to Wasserman’s projections, have to increase their share of the vote 4.1% across the board from 2012.
The universal technique that is applied here, however, may not be the best method.
For example, black voters have a deep connection with the Democratic Party going back to the New Deal and 1964 Civil Rights Act. While it’s true Barack Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016, it is likely that blacks will remain loyal to his party for quite some time.
Therefore, a Republican winning 9.6% the black vote in PA is pretty unrealistic. The GOP’s efforts would be much better spent appealing to non-college whites and Latinos instead.
Altogether, though, the whole study is fascinating and provides plenty of lessons and insights into the electoral makeup of Pennsylvania and over a dozen other politically influential states.