Bucks County native, the guy who called the Paul Ryan VP pick and alum of the right University, Robert Costa uses tonight’s massive Romney Rally in Pennsylvania to drop some knowledge on one of our favorite topics: Battleground Counties — specifically Pennsylvania Battleground Counties.
Mitt Romney is poised to win Pennsylvania — if he can stay competitive in the moderate suburbs and put up large numbers in Pennsylvania’s conservative pockets. “If he runs up big margins in the central and western parts of the state, and holds his own in the Philadelphia suburbs, he can win it, even if he gets his butt beat in Philadelphia,” says former Republican senator Rick Santorum. “Even then, he’ll need a little magic.” … It won’t be easy. “Republicans have been here before,” says G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College. “In 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush got to within three or four points in the last week, and ended up losing both times. They know how to get to the red zone, but they haven’t figure out how to get into the end zone.” Four years ago, John McCain lost every county in suburban Philadelphia…Winning Pennsylvania is complicated. In a way, it’s a microcosm of America. It has big, deep-blue cities, sprawling, deep-red rural counties, and highly populated suburbs. It has a pro-life Democratic senator (Bob Casey), but five times elected a pro-choice Republican (Arlen Specter) to the upper chamber. It counts a Democratic grandee (Ed Rendell) as a former governor, and Pat Toomey, the former Club for Growth president, as a senator…For Romney to win, five key counties need to either shift toward Romney or see depressed Democratic turnout. And most important, these shifts need to happen in a synchronized fashion. For example, even if Romney does better than McCain in the suburbs, he needs turnout among Philadelphia Democrats to be average and Republican turnout in western Pennsylvania to be heavy.
2008 result: Obama +9
2004 result: Kerry +3
Bucks County is a tale of two suburbs. In upper Bucks, there are thousands of stucco-and-brick mansions that are home to well educated, socially liberal professionals… In lower Bucks, you have thousands of Levittown homes…The people here are blue-collar Democrats. Many of them had union jobs at Fairless Works, a U.S. Steel mill, until it closed, and now work in non-industrial sectors. Together, these two suburban areas and their 600,000 residents form a capricious political powerhouse…To win Bucks, you need to win the hearts of the Reagan Democrats and the fickle soccer moms who live in the palaces on former farmland…As a reserved, Harvard-trained businessman, Romney appeals temperamentally to upper-Bucks Republicans, and his economic-focused campaign appeals to Levittown’s many out-of-work residents.
2008 result: Obama +67
2004 result: Kerry +60
In 2008, Obama garnered 30,000 more votes in Philadelphia than Kerry did, giving him more than half-a-million votes in a single county. That was about one-sixth of Obama’s statewide total — and his approximate margin of victory. In the rest of the state, Obama and McCain more or less tied, but McCain ended up losing by about 600,000 votes. McCain’s effective tie in 66 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties wasn’t enough, and Romney’s campaign knows that it has to come out well ahead in the rest of the state in order to eke out a victory once the Philadelphia returns are tallied. You can be sure that Obama adviser David Axelrod is counting on Philadelphia’s old-fashioned Democratic and public-union machine, which is managed by Representative Bob Brady, to show up.
2008 result: Obama +8
2004 result: Kerry +3
Luzerne County is in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area in northeastern Pennsylvania…the county is trending Republican. Senator Toomey nearly won Luzerne County two years ago, coming within a thousand votes of victory in a county that Obama carried by eight points. According to local election officials, Democrats still outnumber Republicans in registration by a hefty margin, but Republican and independent registrations have jumped markedly since Obama’s 2008 campaign…The Romney campaign has a bustling campaign office in Luzerne. Their goal is to repeat Toomey’s 2010 model, which means a near-constant focus on the economy with a bipartisan message…These voters are looking for an economic alternative, and they’re unhappy with Washington. Two years ago, Republican Lou Barletta, a vocal critic of illegal immigration, won the area’s congressional seat [ousting powerful 13-term incumbent Paul Kanjorski by nearly 10-points].
2008 result: Obama +1
2004 result: Bush +2
Cambria County is east of Pittsburgh, and it includes Johnstown, a Democratic city that was the late John Murtha’s political base for decades, as well as Republican-leaning suburbs closer to Pittsburgh…Cambria County is full of families who grew up with fathers who worked in coal mines and steel mills, and many of the best jobs in the county remain in the energy sector. Expect Obama to pay a price for his regulations…Senator Toomey carried Cambria two years ago, and Republican Keith Rothfus, who narrowly lost his House race in 2010, is running strong against the county’s incumbent congressman, Democrat Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer. Romney should also be helped by U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith, a former coal executive from the region who is running countless TV ads about Obama’s “war on coal.”
2008 result: McCain +12
2004 result: Bush +32
Lancaster County and neighboring York County make up the base of the Pennsylvania GOP. Running up solid totals here gives you some breathing room, especially if Philadelphia’s suburbs don’t turn completely red and the turnout in the western counties is less than expected. … Politically, Pennsylvania Dutch Country is often overlooked, but it is more populated than people think, with over 500,000 residents, and turnout here can change the entire dynamic of a Republican’s statewide effort…But Romney’s late entry into Pennsylvania makes turnout in Lancaster harder to predict…Looking to win the state, Romney must hope that local conservatives don’t mind his absence.