Will Dems Go All-In For Pennsylvania?
This has led some prolific party operatives to insist that PA will remain in the blue column come November 8th. The leader of this group is Obama 2008 Campaign Manager David Plouffe.
“It would take the biggest acrobatic contortion of all-time for a Republican to win [Pennsylvania],” Plouffe recently stated. “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.”
The President’s political guru continually reiterated this point over the last few weeks.
PA is not a true battleground. Shows real discipline. https://t.co/nnSkQUqSe7
— David Plouffe (@davidplouffe) June 15, 2016
The Q(uestionable) Polls out today causing lots of commotion. Clinton won't win FL by 8 and has zero chance of losing PA. Zero.
— David Plouffe (@davidplouffe) June 21, 2016
Today, Plouffe was even more explicit.
You have to be willing to win PA with less of a margin than you could to put max efforts in true battleground states https://t.co/ZOh29bujQf
— David Plouffe (@davidplouffe) June 28, 2016
This reflects the Obama team’s strategy in 2008 and 2012 when John McCain and Mitt Romney each made last-ditch efforts for Pennsylvania. Both times the Obama campaign ignored them and both times they won the state. In 2012, though, Romney narrowed the margin.
In a way, this strategy makes a lot of sense. Why should it matter whether you candidate wins 54.49% of the vote (Obama’s 2008 total) or 51.97% of the vote (Obama’s 2012 total)? Either way you get all twenty electoral votes.
There are people, though, which it matters quite a lot to: the down-ballot candidates.
Take the Senate for example. In this era of declining split-ticket voting, that two-and-a-half point shift could be the difference between a second term for GOP Sen. Pat Toomey or a first term for Democrat Katie McGinty. Not to mention congressional (ex. PA-8) and state legislative races.
Plouffe’s comments are a perfect illustration of perhaps the Democratic Party’s biggest frustration with President Obama. Namely, that he was never interested in building the party.
Viewed in that light, Pennsylvania seems a much more likely Democratic target for the Clinton campaign. In fact, a Clinton has never lost a PA contest. Bill won the PA Democratic primaries in 1992 and 1996 as well as taking the state in both general election contests. Then Hillary won the Democratic primaries in 2008 and 2016. Her father was even born in Scranton.
Despite all that, though, the campaign is not running TV ads in Pennsylvania. Instead the Priorities USA Super PAC is hitting the airwaves instead (notable tidbit: Paul Begala, senior advisor to Priorities, first caught Bill Clinton’s attention helping Harris Wofford win the 1991 PA Senate special election).
While it would be hard to imagine the candidate giving short shrift to the home of the Democratic National Convention, it did happen four years ago. After Charlotte hosted the DNC, President Obama never returned to North Carolina and lost the state by just two points. His team would likely argue, however, that any effort was better spent in Florida where the President won the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes by only 0.88%.
At this time, the Clinton campaign appears to be split between the Plouffe view (he’s an informal consultant) and the more conventional view.
All the while, several polls show a close race and Trump has made it clear he is targeting PA with two visits in the past month to the increasingly Republican Southwestern portion of the commonwealth.
Thus the Clinton team is left with a conundrum. Leave PA on the back burner and hope they hold on or put serious resources into the state. Either way, that decision will have countless repercussions for the Keystone State come the night of November 8th.