Pennsylvania has long been known as a battleground state in presidential elections, and this year is no different. This election cycle, both Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump have been fighting to claim the 20 electoral votes that are up for grabs here.
They are smart to spend their resources here, because it’s likely the outcome for the candidates in the Keystone State will mirror the national results, said political science professor Kevin Arceneaux.
“Campaigns tend to think that if they’re going to push the election one way or the other, they can make up ground in Pennsylvania,” Arceneaux added.
In a recent New York Times interview, David Rothschild, head of the election-forecasting site PredictWise, said Pennsylvania would be the tipping point in the election.
“It has been the state to put Hillary Clinton over 270 electoral votes, should she win all of the other more likely states for her,” Rothschild wrote in the article. “Conversely, it’s also the state that would put Trump over the hump, if he wins all of the states that are more likely for him.”
Currently, election data shows Clinton leading in Pennsylvania. According to RealClearPolitics, a nonpartisan political website, Pennsylvania polls show Clinton at about 48 percent with Trump coming in at about 41 percent — but this doesn’t mean competition in the state or nationally is over.
Michael Hagen, an associate professor of political science, said it’s too soon to predict anything, because the gap often closes between candidates as the election nears.
“There’s another debate ahead, there’s, you know, presumably more WikiLeaks and revelations ahead so there’s still time for things to start shifting the other way,” Hagen said.
The race remains competitive, and it seems likely candidates will continue to devote resources to campaigning in Pennsylvania until the end of the election, as they’ve devoted so many resources already.
According to Bloomberg Politics, Clinton has spent more than $83,000 on TV ads in Pennsylvania during just one week in October, and has been mobilizing volunteers to knock on doors, call constituents and register voters.
Clinton campaigned in Philadelphia last month with a speech in Mitten Hall, and throughout the campaign she has had other Democratic politicians campaign in the city on her behalf: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine stumped for her in Philly.
Despite having a smaller ground game and fundraising budget than Clinton, Trump has also devoted some of his campaign resources to Pennsylvania. He’s drawn large crowds for rallies in Ambridge and Manheim, and in early September, he visited the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in North Philadelphia to meet with African American voters.
“His strongest base of support from polling is whites, who are male and do not possess a college education,” Arceneaux said. “So if you think about Pennsylvania, voters who fit that profile tend to live in more rural parts of the state that have been affected by the shift away from manufacturing.”
Examining past presidential election trends paints a brighter picture for the Democrats in Pennsylvania. In every presidential election going back to 1992, the Democrats have won Pennsylvania with a majority of the vote.
But Hagen added more information will likely surface and affect the outcome in November. He also warned not to dismiss the importance of the last presidential debate.
“I think all of the votes count,” Hagen said. “And it’s going to be close, so I think casting a vote in Pennsylvania is more consequential than in other big states where the result is a foregone conclusion.”
As a Pennsylvania voter, I know my vote carries a lot of weight in this election, and I hope other Pennsylvania voters, especially my fellow classmates, realize the opportunity we have to affect change with our votes.
Zach Kocis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.