What’s wrong with this picture?
Pennsylvania’s considered “in play” as a battleground state — and it is, for now — but it’s also a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican president since George H.W. Bush in 1988. That’s longer than a lifetime for the youngest Keystone State voters.
And in the most recent election, Republicans lost big. Republicans lost 8 of the 10 most populous cities, pretty much everywhere it mattered: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, Bethlehem, Scranton, and Harrisburg. Granted, 2008 wasn’t a banner year for Republicans by any means, but even in 2004, they lost 6 of those 10 cities.
Every state in the Northeast, from Maine to New York and New Jersey, has been more or less solidly blue for a while. Could Pennsylvania go firmly blue? Would the southern creep continue? This is the context in which the contest between Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak falls.
The Pennsylvania GOP is contenting itself with tinkering on the edges, working to stoke the base in the less populated, rural regions of the state with the assumption that losing consistently in the cities is an act of pragmatism. They work to pull out elections on the margins.
But this is not a strategy for long-term electoral success in a Commonwealth looking increasingly more blue than purple.