Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With this week’s Democratic presidential debate still fresh in our admittedly quite cluttered cerebellum, and the Legislature out of town for a couple of weeks, now seems like a pretty good time to switch focus to the 2020 presidential contest and Pennsylvania’s place in the fight for the 270 electoral votes it takes to win the White House.
Fortunately, the good folks at the Center for American Progress have focused our attention some by breaking down the fight between President Donald Trump and the eventual Democratic nominee in each of the key 2020 battleground states.
So with that slender pretext in place, let’s take a look at the lay of the land in Pennsylvania, shall we? It comes courtesy of CAP’s Ruy Texeira & John Halpin. And some of the findings may surprise you — or not.
We’ll get the obvious stuff out of the way first. Namely, that Trump broke a three-decade-old Democratic winning streak when he carried Pennsylvania in 2016. He beat Hillary Clinton by not even a percentage point, or about 44,000 votes on Election night.
Democrats, you’ll recall, made up some of that ground in 2018, picking up seats in the state House and Senate, and evening up the Congressional delegation with the GOP. Wins in the U.S. Senate and Guv’s office didn’t hurt either. And as Texeira and Halpin write, both sides will look to replicate their winning patterns in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Here’s what the electorate looked like in 2016 and how things have changed since:
From Texiera and Halpin:
“Nonwhites made up 17 percent of Pennsylvania voters in 2016 and heavily supported Clinton: Blacks, 10 percent of voters, by 90-8; Hispanics, 4 percent of voters, by 74-22; and Asians/other races, 3 percent of voters, by 62-31. Clinton also carried white college graduates, 31 percent of voters, by 9 points (52 percent to 43 percent). But the dominant group—white non-college voters—favored Trump by around 30 points (63 percent to 33 percent), which ultimately made the difference.
In 2020, we expect all nonwhite groups to increase at least slightly as a percentage of eligible voters relative to 2016. Hispanics should increase by about 1 point; Asians/other races by 0.5 points; and Blacks by 0.3 points. White college-educated voters should also increase by around 1 point, while white non-college voters should drop by more than 2 points. All these changes are favorable for the Democrats. This is, in fact, enough underlying change to tip the state to the Democratic candidate, if all turnout and partisan voting preferences by group remain the same as in 2016.”
So what’s the bottom line, based on that?
“Trump will therefore need to increase his support among white non-college voters to greater than his 30-point margin in 2016 and/or increase this group’s relative turnout. Another possibility for Trump is to increase his support among a less-friendly demographic such as white college voters,” Texeira and Halpin write.
“But he cannot afford to stand pat with the voting patterns from the previous election. The demographic shifts in Pennsylvania, coupled with the narrow margin of victory in 2016, mean that Trump cannot simply replicate his 2016 messages and outreach and expect to win this critical state. He will need to offer Pennsylvania working-class voters a strong economic pitch while simultaneously showing suburban women and college-educated white voters that his policies support their interests,” they concluded.
It would be easy enough, then, for Democrats to rely on demographic shifts and use that to carry them through, Texeira and Halpin write.
But that strategy isn’t without its risks, they note:
“Democrats will clearly attempt to change these voting patterns in their favor. One goal might be to increase Black turnout back to its 2012 levels. This would be helpful but would not add much to their performance, since Black turnout declined only marginally in Pennsylvania in 2016 and was actually still slightly above white turnout in that election. Returning the margin among Black voters back to levels attained by President Obama in 2012 would be more helpful but would add only a percentage point to the Democrats’ projected margin. Widening the Democrats’ margin among white college graduates by 10 points would be more effective, adding 3 points to potential Democratic 2020 performance.
“But the goal with the most potential impact would be to move some white non-college voters—particularly white non-college women, among whom Clinton ran 25 points better than among their male counterparts—away from Trump. Shaving 10 margin points off Trump’s advantage among white non-college voters—thereby bringing the Democratic deficit close to what it was for Obama in the state in 2012—would boost the Democrats’ projected margin by as much as 5 points. Even achieving half that goal would give the Democrats a several-point cushion in the state,” they conclude.
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On our Commentary Page:
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You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Birthday wishes go out in advance this morning to occasional Capital-Star opinion contributor Aryanna Berringer, who celebrates on Saturday. Enjoy your day.
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And now you’re up to date.
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