Electoral votes: 21
2004 result: Kerry 51%, Bush 48%
2000 result: Gore 51%, Bush 46%
Most recent Republican win (1988): Bush 51%, Dukakis 48%
African American percentage: 10.7% (national average is 12.8%)
Link to polls in Real Clear Politics
Despite all of the writing I do about Minnesota, Pennsylvania is the state where I've spent most of my adult life. The Republican ticket won the first presidential election after my move here in 1987. But it's been all Democratic, ever since.
There are three interesting effects in play this year:
The Democrats have been gaining strength in this decade, in the wealthier suburbs of Philadelphia. There seem to be two reasons for this: 1) George Bush is not the sort of Republican that particularly appeals to many of the long-time Republican voters in those areas; and 2) Democrats such as Gov. Ed Rendell do not scare away those voters. Therefore those suburbs no longer as strongly offset Democratic strength among urban Philadelphia and Pittsburgh voters.
This is the state about which Obama made his comments about bitter people clinging to religion and guns. That might make it difficult for Obama to gain support in Central Pennsylvania and other rural parts of the state. James Carville is not my favorite political figure, but it's difficult to dispute his contention that Pennsylvania consists of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and in between it's Alabama. Will Obama gain enough suburban votes to offset any loss of votes in "Alabama"?
Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden is a Pennsylvania native. Although his family moved to Delaware when he was very young, he did not go far away. Delaware is covered by the Philadelphia media market. That might be of some help in shoring up support for Obama in the Philadelphia area.
So far, the net effect of all that has been a virtual tie in the polls. Pennsylvania will be, as they say, a "keystone", if the race stays close.