What Pennsylvania Can Teach Us

I went and gathered the certified numbers from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s site for the past two presidential and senatorial elections here. I picked four counties to show you. These results demonstrate how Clinton did in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Philly suburbs, and in the Pennsyltucky ‘T’ part of the Keystone State.

Notice that Clinton got more votes than Obama out of Pittsburgh and out of the Philly suburbs. Notice that she nearly matched Obama’s vote total out of Philly.

Also, notice how much better Romney did than Trump in the burbs (Montgomery County) and how much worse he did than Trump in the ‘T’ (Cambria County).

Montgomery County (Philly Suburbs)

Obama 233,356 57%
Romney 174,381 42%
Clinton 256,082 59%
Trump 162,731 37%
Casey 235,197 58%
Smith 163,882 41%
McGinty 237,353 55%
Toomey 189,574 45%

Cambria County (Central-West)
Obama 24,249 40%
Romney 35,163 58%
Clinton 18,867 29.9%
Trump 42,258 67%
Casey 28,779 48%
Smith 30,202 50%
McGinty 21,894 35%
Toomey 36,948 59%

Allegheny County (Pittsburgh)
Obama 352,687 57%
Romney 262,039 42%
Clinton 367,617 57%
Trump 259,480 40%
Casey 362,459 59%
Smith 236,546 39%
McGinty 357,450 55%
Toomey 261,316 40%

Philadelphia County (Philadelphia)
Obama 588,806 85%
Romney 96,467 14%
Clinton 584,025 83%
Trump 108,748 15%
Casey 564,886 86%
Smith 84,461 13%
McGinty 560,421 82%
Toomey 116,714 17%

When compared to Bob Casey results or Obama’s results, McGinty did poorly in Pennsyltucky, but she still did respectably when compared to Clinton. Her total was only 2,500 lower than what Obama received there four years earlier, while Clinton’s numbers were down by 5,500.

What killed her campaign was running so far behind Clinton in the much more populous suburbs.

This is what I’m warning about. Trump really was weaker than a standard Republican in the suburbs all over this country, but that won’t necessarily transfer to other candidates in the future. Clinton does seem to have been uniquely weak in these white working class counties, and maybe she dragged McGinty down some in those places. But this erosion has more potential to be persistent than the Republicans’ problems in the suburbs. This is particularly true if the Democrats’ solution to winning back support in more rural areas is to adopt a kind of economic populism that will alienate suburban voters.

It’s like a balloon that can expand in the other direction when you compress one side. And there are many more votes in the suburbs, so making a straight-up trade is very risky.

Still, because the Democrats need to concern themselves with expanding the geographic breadth of their support, it’s a risk that has to be made to some degree.

But, I suspect that the Democrats can’t have it both ways and be successful with a unified message. To have it both ways, they’ll actually have to have two, distinct messages than don’t overlap in important respects. And if the plan fails in the suburbs, the failure will be more pronounced than if the opposite happens.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.