Pennsylvania 7th District
The close-in suburbs of the great Eastern cities were home to some of the longest-lasting political machines in America. They were Republican; they were ethnic as well as WASP; they had a tolerance for patronage and corruption that was sharply at odds with their supposed embodiment of middle-class morality. And they were as much a part of the urban landscape as trolley lines. One such machine was the War Board of Pennsylvania’s Delaware County, a ruthlessly effective Republican organization that continues to influence local politics even in its current and greatly diminished form. Republicans retain a decided advantage in party registration in Delaware County, though they lost their board majority in 2008. And Democratic presidential candidates have been winning in the county by increasing margins since the 1990s, including a 56%-43% victory for Barack Obama in 2008. The reasons are partly demographic—in recent decades many Democrats have moved out to the suburbs from Philadelphia—and partly ideological. Republicans of the Newt Gingrich stripe are unfamiliar here, and Sun Belt Republicanism is not popular.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 7th Congressional District of Pennsylvania includes almost all of Delaware County, except for a few towns with large African-American populations that are appended to Philadelphia’s 1st District. The 7th extends north to include a few Montgomery County suburbs, such as modest Conshohocken, an old Schuylkill River factory town that is now the U.S. headquarters for Swedish home furnishings retailer Ikea. It also includes affluent Upper Merion Township and King of Prussia, an edge city where the Schuylkill Expressway intersects the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The 7th takes in southeastern Chester County, including the commercial hub of West Chester and a few further-out suburbs such as Malvern and part of Paoli. About 70% of the population is in Delaware County, with the remainder split between Montgomery and Chester counties. The 7th includes the elite small colleges of Haverford and Swarthmore, and the refined farm country of Chadds Ford, home to generations of Wyeth artists. Its housing is aging but well maintained. Its population is above average in income and people here have deep roots in greater Philadelphia, although they may rarely venture into Center City.