Presidential Politics And Election Returns
Last Updated July 15, 2003
For the last 70 years Pennsylvania has been a swing state in every close presidential election and even in some that were not close. Yet it is not typical of the country. With its older, deeply-rooted population, it tends to be culturally more conservative than the rest of the country; with its long-dying blue-collar communities, it tends to be economically more liberal--though both tendencies are being muted with time. But it does present a problem for political strategists of both parties: Combinations of issue positions which work for Democrats on the East and West Coasts or for Republicans in the South and the Heartland do not work well here. Elderly voters--the New Deal generation--are Pennsylvania's strongest Democratic bloc; they voted 60%-38% for Al Gore in 2000. Voters 30 to 44--the Reagan generation--were the only age group to favor George W. Bush, 50%-47%. There are echoes in the VNS exit poll of the economic politics of the past, with under $15,000-income voters 61%-35% and union members 67%-29% for Gore and over $100,000 voters 60%-36% for Bush. White Protestants continue to be heavily Republican, 60%-39% for Bush; but white Catholics, overwhelmingly for John Kennedy 40 years before, gave Gore only a 50%-46% margin.
This was a state that both Gore and Bush targeted in 2000; Bush strategists were surprised and disappointed when it went for Gore. But they haven't given up. By spring 2003, Bush had made his 19th trip to Pennsylvania as president, more than in any other state. Pennsylvania is likely to see more of Bush and the Democratic nominee in the 2004 cycle.
Pennsylvania's April presidential primary has not been crucial since 1976, when Jimmy Carter clinched the Democratic nomination here by beating Henry Jackson and Morris Udall. In 1999 the legislature moved the primary date from April 25 to April 4, but it made little difference; both parties' nominations had already been cinched by then.
|2000 Presidential Vote|
|2000 Republican Primary|
|2000 Democratic Primary|
|1996 Presidential Vote|
For 1992 and 1996 presidential results in Pennsylvania, please see the Almanac 2000 online.
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