One thing that has irked me about this whole process, now that Pennsylvania is a Very Important State that Matters and not a Boutique State with Cute Latte Volvo Caucuses, is the comparison that Pennsylvania is Ohio.
It is not. Pennsylvania is NOT Ohio. It's its own special animal of crazy!
I am going to go region by region across the state, using the recent SUSA poll.
There are caveats to the poll I'm using in the analysis: I expect the gap to close significantly, especially 6 weeks out, and the polling was done last week after Clinton had 3 big (2, depending on who you ask) wins. I am waiting for the latest Keystone Poll which may or may not (I have had issues in the past with the way they sample) close the gap some.
As an Obama supporter I'm going to attempt to point out where he can win, especially in areas where he's really down. But as a Democrat I'm going to mention that I hold little ill will toward the Clinton Campaign, although her campaign since South Carolina has turned me off from enthusiastically volunteering for the presidential campaign should she get the nomination. Plus, a friend of mine is the regional field director for Central PA on the Clinton campaign, and I would like to keep the friendship. I also know a few people highly placed who are Clinton supporters, and burning bridges this early in my real and political career would be pretty goddamn stupid. So, let's keep it civil, folks, because in the real world, people are still civil to each other. If you cannot do that, please don't aggravate me. I can be really mean and spiteful and bitchy when I want to, and this goes out to both camps. Do not make me pull this blog over......!
South Central PA and Central PA
We'll start with South Central PA, where I currently live. This would be PA-16, PA-9, PA-19, parts of PA-5, parts of PA-10 and much of PA-17. Of the four Congressional districts, only PA-17 is represented by a Democrat, Tim Holden, who last I heard had not endorsed. I can see him going both ways. He is a Blue Dog Democrat, so if anyone has any stats on how the Blue Dogs have endorsed if they have at all, please feel free to add to the diary.
South Central PA is an oddball and mishmash of places. It's not quite urban, not quite suburban. Not quite rural, not quite Appalachia. Not quite Yankee, not quite Southern. Not quite rust-belt, and not quite Coal Country. It's got pretty much all of that all mixed in to what we all know is the southern two-thirds of the infamous Pennsylvania(tucky) T. The part that is "Alabama" in the middle. It's also where I live.
Regional economy remains fairly good. The southern tier of York, Adams, and Franklin Counties are Baltimore/Washington exurbs (Baltimore for York, Washington for Franklin and Adams.) This may or may not be a factor in the vote---I have not seen any research on how these exurban folks from Maryland (although they could be from anywhere in the nation) vote. Suburban sprawl is sadly eating up land all across the area, and due to Pennsylvania's arcane municipal laws the urban core cities of Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg have struggled, York especially, although all three are making strong comebacks.
A common commercial seen on TV here depicts the region as "The Smart Market." Sometimes I wonder about that after reading the letters to the editor in the Patriot-News or the message board at Pennlive, but I digress. This is, more or less, not a region of dumb hicks which the pejorative version of "Pennsyltucky" or "Alabama down the Middle" implies (and is unfair to Kentucky, Alabama, and Pennsylvania.)
Nascar is pretty popular here, though. Anyway.
SUSA has Obama down in this area.
Not too distant a race for an area supposedly filled with inbred racist hicks according to that ragin' Cajun.
I could see this gap closing, and I'll tell you why. Although Democrats are fairly outnumbered in this area by Republicans those that are here tend to be on the progressive side, except perhaps in the Harrisburg area. I realize this evidence is perhaps weak, but we can take a look at the Casey/Pennacchio Senate matchup of 2006.
Obviously, this was a bloodbath of a matchup, and Pennacchio never had any semblance of a chance. But have a look at Lancaster County:
Candidate Votes Percent
CASEY, BOB JR (DEM) 7,858 69.2%
PENNACCHIO, CHUCK (DEM) 2,888 25.4%
SANDALS, ALAN (DEM) 603 5.3%
Other then Fulton County, which technically is in South Central PA but more in West Central (but I consider it an outlier, for now, not knowing much about that county), there were no other counties where Pennacchio polled so high other then Centre County where Penn State is. And from personal experience, Democrats tend to be very progressive in Lancaster County (PA-16). Obviously it's still a very Republican county (2-1 ratio) however I kind of do anticipate a lot of crossover votes in this county. In private, lots of Lancaster County denizens will admit they're really Democrats, but because our closed primaries are also defacto local general elections in most of the state, they remain Republicans to moderate the more nutty influences of the local party there. And I think they have--the very creepy, very nutty, and very fundamentalist Heidi Wheaton is not representing anyone in Lancaster Co.
Clinton made a campaign stop here today, and got a crowd of about 2000 (with some turned away, the Forum only holds 2000 people.) Both the McCain and Clinton campaigns paid to march in our St. Patrick's Day parade. Her office is open downtown here, and is well placed on the 2nd Street Party Strip (and 3 doors down from PA State Democratic Headquarters.) I think people agree with her economic message, as times here were better in the 1990s then they are now. I admit to being somewhat surprised as to her support here, as some of the Hillary hatred in the area is pretty visceral and vile, particularly among Republicans and more conservative Democrats (that said, SUSA reports Clinton has the support, as of now, of conservative Democrats). That said, I still have to remind some people in areas I sojourn in that 1. Kenyans are not Arabs and 2. Obama is a Christian. Racist attitudes are still a problem here, even among some Democrats. That retarded little email is still making the rounds and it's pretty disheartening to hear Democrats spouting them (but more or less expected of Republicans, although I don't get the gay ones spouting it of either party.)
I think outside of Philadelphia and its suburbs, Obama should stump here heavily. Stops in Pottstown, Shamokin, York, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Williamsport, and State College should be on the agenda. Talking the real story about NAFTA would appeal especially in York which is a manufacturing town. Explaining what that "change" is would get through to a lot of over-cynical state workers in Harrisburg who either don't believe him or think the fix is in and she'll get the nomination even if he wins delegate and popular vote wise. Whatever he did in downstate Illinois would probably work here. I dunno, but perhaps mentioning the machine and mainstream state Democrats were generally for the 2005 legislative and judicial pay raises may help in Central PA, though that's a local issue and not relavent to the entire nation. Still...
I don't have a crystal ball, but I expect that gap to close here in the midstate. I will say I would be shocked to see him win York County, because there are certain communities there that I could not ever see voting for a black person (think Confederate flags everywhere, despite being north of the Mason-Dixon), and there is also a large Hispanic community in the city which at present according to SUSA is in support of Clinton. I also think the Lancaster progressives will come out for Obama, as I get the distinct feeling they're really not Clinton fans. Beyond that I'll make no more predictions about South Central PA.
West Central PA
West Central PA is Appalachia. It includes the cities of Altoona and Johnstown. This is PA-9, a very gerrymandered PA-12, the rest of PA-5 and parts of PA-18.
My experience in this area is limited. I've been to places like St. Marys, Altoona and Dubois. It's very white, but I can't say the area is racist as the folks here likely have not had any experience with people of other cultures. The area suffers from a general lack of access due to the terrain, Johnstown in particular, and is generally bleeding its population elsewhere in the state. Oil leases have come back into play in PA-5, as the oil remaining in the ground which was not profitable to extract now is. Manufacturing left in the 1980s and 1990s.
SUSA looks great for Clinton, and grim for Obama.
Obama simply needs to show up in this area. A stop in Johnstown is a must. To my knowledge, Murtha, who represents PA-12, has not endorsed. There are some big Democratic names in the machine out there, however, and I'm not sure if the Governor will call on their support.
A lot of this is diary country. While I think it's arcane to the general public, talking about Montasano and labeling milk could go well here for either candidate (although I expect Obama to talk about it more then Clinton.)
Jesse Jackson did well in Appalachia when he ran, and lemme tell ya people can't stand him in this part of the state and where I live. All he did was show up and talk to people.
Clinton can depend on, I think, a very reliable machine to deliver the region for her. This is an area of old fashioned conservative Democrats. I do expect the gap to close, but not as drastically as I do in South Central.
Southwest PA includes the city of Pittsburgh and is the epitome of the Rust Belt. This is PA-12, PA-14, PA-18 and PA-4 (which was last cycle's most satisfying Democratic pickup. We really need to pick up PA-18 this cycle, which would make this area totally Blue. Blue Dog, but still Blue.)
OF all of PA's regions, this one resembles Ohio the most in terms of jobs lost and towns devastated by the loss of manufacturing, especially in the Monongahela River valley and places like Beaver Falls. There is still coal mining in the region, especially in Greene County. Other then internal suburban migration in Butler County from Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, this area is not growing and despite all the universities in the region especially in the city of Pittsburgh, those kids leave when they graduate, despite a decent and growing tech market in Pittsburgh and a low cost of living.
SUSA for Southwest PA:
(The Other category was 10%)
I cannot even begin to describe the byzantine machine politics that go on in Southwest PA, so I won't. I've experienced it in attending biannual transportation hearings through my job. It gets pretty ugly out there. I think the machine is for Clinton.
Both of my siblings attended universities in Pittsburgh and enjoyed the place, although they found it a tad segregated for their tastes (not that the Philadelphia region is much better).
NAFTA, NAFTA, NAFTA needs to be the message. Outside of Pittsburgh it's pretty grim, with many towns along the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers in pretty sad shape. The coming recession will hit this region hard.
As before, I expect this gap to close. A large student population in the region may help. The primary, however, falls during UPitt's finals week. Beyond that I think it's anyone's region to win or lose.
This contains PA-3 mostly, and parts of PA-5. Other then Erie, it's mostly rural. Oil is becoming big again in PA-5 (this was where oil was first struck in the US.) I read an article in the paper that states most of the oil is still in the ground, but like the tar sands out west, it wasn't profitable to get until now. They're getting it now (which kinda pisses me off, environmentally.)
This area also resembles Ohio, although Erie still has some heavy industry (locomotives, and plastics) and they build ships there too. A recent article which I can't find, sorry, indicated there was a strong, strong need for shipbuilders as the area has bled much of its educated young to other parts of PA or elsewhere.
This is Clinton Country, per SUSA
It is, however, not Rendell Country. I-80 traverses the area, and the recent sale of I-80 to the Turnpike Commission so they could toll it really has a lot of people honking pissed off. It was the only time you ever heard from Representative Peterson and English, on this issue.
Obama just needs to show up to close the gap. I don't expect him to win, but I do expect the gap to close significantly. Showing up is 80% of the job.
Northeast PA is PA-10, PA-11, and PA-15. I'll include parts of PA-17 as well. Only PA-15 is a Republican district, and I haven't the foggiest reason why given the Lehigh Valley's demographics.
The valley regions are urban and the hills and elsewhere are rural. This is also Coal Country. Chris Carney, in PA-10 (another very satisfying pickup) is a Blue Dog, and has not endorsed to my knowledge.
Not bad, considering the hometown girl angle they're playing in Scranton.
There are a lot of New Yorkers in the region. This is pretty much a New York City exurb, especially east of Scranton and in the Lehigh Valley. I am not sure how this dynamic will play out. I'd expect the polling to be further apart to be honest given the New Yorkers in the area and how well she did in her home state, and in New Jersey. At the same time manufacturing died in the 80s and was killed with NAFTA. Coal is still going strong, but with Powder River Coal in Wyoming being so much cheaper---well, you see where I'm going.
There are lots of ways Obama can close the gap here as this is a pretty diverse region with all sorts of people from blue collar to wealthy New York City executives who wanted cheap land and a 5 acre lot in the mountains close to where they ski. It is this dynamic and not just the choking incident that led Chris Carney to beat his opponent, I believe that. There is also a large Hispanic population in the Lehigh Valley. Their votes are as good as anyones, I think.
This is also the home of Hazleton and its nutcase mayor.
The Delaware Valley, where two-fifths of the Democratic electorate lives, and almost half of the state's total population inhabits, is where we'll end. It's also where I'm from originally. This is PA-1, PA-2, PA-6, PA-7, PA-8, PA-13 and a small portion of PA-16 (for exurban measure.) PA-1, 2, 7, 8, and 13 are Democratic seats. Lois Herr won the Chester County portion of PA-16, and some of the most exciting pickups in Congress and in the State House occurred in SE PA. Our one seat sliver in the PA State house is thanks to a seat in Chester County.
This is also Rendell Country.
pretty much a statistical tie and within the sampling margin of error.
Obviously this will be a battleground for both campaigns. Both Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia and former mayor Governor Rendell have endorsed Clinton. Rendell's unfortunate habit of "speaking his mind" may or may not hurt him at home. At present I am fairly certain this is the only area he's still popular in, although I often joke that Philadelphians can't stand him either and were more then happy to send him statewide for "revenge," since the city is often the brunt of ire from central Pennsylvanian lawmakers who think the city is looting the state dry (it's actually the other way around.) I could see them doing that. Philadelphians have a mean, bastid streak. I hate and love that town.
I grew up in Delaware County (PA-7) and will use it as my Southeast PA example.
Of the 5 county Philadelphia region, Delco is the only suburban county that was not growing as of recently. The economy is fairly good, but demographics are changing. If I were to divide Delco up I'd draw a rough square with the Blue Route on the west boundary, the Delaware River as the Southern boundary, Lancaster Avenue (US 30) as the northern boundary and the city line as the eastern boundary. This area is more middle and working class (speaking broadly, as places like Swarthmore and much of Drexel Hill and Upper Darby's Beverly Hills neighborhood is pretty ritzy) but it's also Delco's most diverse area with a lot of young families (it's fairly affordable, by Philly area standards). Outside of the box is the Main Line, a very wealthy area, and other suburban sprawl. HGTV films in Aston a lot, which is outside of the rough square I drew and close to Delaware.
Delco is a long time GOP stronghold and from 1854 to 1988, voted reliably Republican. Outside of a few communities every local level office is GOP held. Republicans have a slight plurality in registrations. Because there are school board elections I really don't expect a lot of crossover votes. Democrats simply don't win school board elections in Delaware County, even in very diverse Upper Darby Township (hometown of Tina Fey, among other famous people, like me!) A lot of these people are somewhat moderate Democrats, (or liberal Republicans, for the tax purposes you see), so Clinton may still prevail. I'll be annoyed if either of them make their campaign stop at Drexelbrook in Drexel Hill, because that is where Bush always stopped whenever he made a campaign stop in the Philadelphia area. It would rub me the wrong way. And yes, I'm being irrational.
Both candidates would be stuuuuuuuuuuupid not to mention John Airbus McCain here. There's a Boeing plant in Ridley.
Overall in Philadelphia and region, this is where I expect Obama to do the best. He'll probably win it, but it may be close, especially in places like NE Philadelphia and the Chester County suburbs. I'm keeping my eye on Delco, though, because even though I really couldn't wait to get as far away from it as possible but still be close to Philadelphia, it's still home.
Whew. that's it. Have at it.