Pennsylvania is a political powerhouse in 2016. (I can’t believe I’m typing this.) For the first time since 1988, Pennsylvania is red and its 20 electoral votes played a key role in helping Donald Trump win the presidency. But that’s not all – the Keystone State also secured the Republican majority in the Senate, with Sen. Pat Toomey’s win over Katie McGinty.
When it comes to politics, Pennsylvania is a bit of a civil war. The key to understanding the battle is in the landscape of the Keystone State. In the two southern corners Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have a significantly greater population and trend Democrat, while the “T” in the central and northern part of the state is known for being more conservative. Over the course of the past several presidential elections, the significant population in the cities has dominated the rural “T,” giving the state to the Democratic candidate.
Those of us who live in the infamous “T” lovingly refer to it as “Pennsyltucky.” But clearly in 2016 – “T” stands for Trump.
Believe it or not, Pennsylvania actually has a predominantly Republican voting record – going for Republicans in 25 of the past 40 elections prior to this year. Recently, however, this state has been almost a sure thing for Democrats – so much so that it’s almost neglected to be recognized as a swing state.
But what’s trending underneath all that blue? FiveThirtyEight projections in the spring showed that Pennsylvania has become approximately 0.4 percentage points more Republican every four years. Combine that with the fact that Pennsylvania is the sixth oldest state in the nation (median age of 40.7 in 2014) and Pennsylvanians’ below average confidence in the economy and you’ve got an older crowd looking for change – this year, that change was Trump.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason Real Clear Politics labeled Pennsylvania a toss-up state late last week.
Regardless of which way it votes, the state of Pennsylvania has been siding with the winning candidates since George Washington was running for office. In fact, there are only 11 elections in history that Pennsylvania hasn’t sided with the winner – pretty impressive considering it was the second state admitted to the Union, and has been participating in presidential elections since 1789.
Selfishly, I wish Pennsylvania had held its Republican red debut for a more conservative (dare I say, worthy?) candidate. However, the fact that my home state has crossed party lines for the first time since George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle in 1988 is notable nevertheless.