There is a reason George W. Bush has visited Pennsylvania almost 40 times since he has been president, more times than any other state. There is a reason why countless people are asking you if you’re registered to vote as you walk to class each day. Pennsylvania is a swing state, making it a prime entrée for two presidential candidates hungry for a feast.
In 2000, Bush lost the keystone state by 204,840 votes, slightly less than the population of Philadelphia college students. Bush is determined not to lose the state this year. Meanwhile, challenger John Kerry is campaigning in Pennsylvania in order to maintain the state’s trend of narrow Republican defeats.
Swing states, also called battleground states, receive significant attention from presidential candidates because they cast swing votes in the Electoral College. Simply put, the election will come down to how these states vote.
Most states are considered either red or blue. Red states usually go republican, blue states, Democrat. But swing states are not a sure win for either party. For example, Bush lost New Mexico during the last election by only 366 votes.
The complex U.S. Electoral College system is structured so that only the winning candidate of a particular state will receive electoral votes, which are based on Congressional representation. Pennsylvania has 21 electoral college votes; Florida is the only swing state with more.
According to CBS News, Pennsylvania suburbs and rural areas are primarily Republican, but 77 percent of Pennsylvania’s registered voters live in urban areas. This is problematic for the GOP because cities such as Philadelphia tend to vote for Democrats. Thus begins a political version of tug-a-war, with the state being the persistently stretched rope. Therefore Bush needs the votes of suburban residents while Kerry is pushing for young adults in urban areas.
Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, is the most populous area of the state. Three counties – Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery – tipped the state for Clinton ’92 and ’96 and for Gore in ’00.
This is exactly the reason why Bush visited King of Prussia, Montgomery County’s second largest town last week. At the last minute he decided to journey to western Pennsylvania to assess flood damage, while many other states have more severe damage from the series of recent hurricanes and tropical storms.
Keeping in fashion, Kerry spoke at both Temple and UPenn’s campuses last Friday in a simple strategic move: earn the vote of college students, a group with a history of poor voter turnout.
Numerous polls have established the election is going to be close, but there is still a significant amount of undecided voters in Pennsylvania who may determine the fate of our country.
An article in the Norristown Times-Herald says, “In the end, the winner of the Nov. 2 presidential election may be determined by how many people show up at the polls in Southeastern Pennsylvania.” Undecided voters, along with the many Democrats that disapprove of Kerry or the many Republicans that disapprove of Bush may swing this state either way.
The constant tug-of-war between the political parties is detrimental to voters. Pennsylvania is a swing state because Bush and Kerry are swinging us around in circles, telling us what we want to hear in hopes that we will be some of the couple thousand people who can make or break their future in politics.
They both want to win. But by over-concentrating on the state, the candidates have shown that they are only concerned about persuading us to vote for them instead of listening to the concerns of a public in need.
Stephanie Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.