Every four years during the presidential race it happens. I get phone calls and emails from Republican friends outside Pennsylvania, pleading, salivating, asking excitedly: “Hey, will Pennsylvania vote Republican?” They see a poll or something that raises their hopes. I've learned the hard way that the answer is always a big, fat, giant “No. No way. Not a chance. Don't be stupid.”
And yet, this year, in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign, I reversed my usual spot-on pessimism. In fact, I even wrote a piece for American Spectator boldly predicting “Mitt Romney will win Pennsylvania.”
What a fool I was.
But why would I have said this? What prompted my hopeless idealism this time around?
The short answer is the reality that I thought I was seeing. Throughout this state, or at least much of it, I sensed an intense enthusiasm for the Republican nominee and a red-hot dislike for Obama. I saw Romney signs everywhere. Four years ago, even in my conservative town of Grove City, I saw Obama signs everywhere. Not this time.
One week before the election, as I hopped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Breezewood, I was struck by giant billboards: “REAL Unemployment is 15 percent. FIRE OBAMA.” Another: “Vote CHANGE, Vote No-Obama.” I passed a minivan with writing on the back windshield: “$4.00 per gallon gasoline? Are you kidding me?! Get rid of Obama!”
Then there were the polls. Two Pennsylvania polls in the closing week of the campaign showed Romney and Obama dead even. That virtual tie, I figured, signaled a Romney win. Like many conservative pundits, I expected a turnout more akin to 2010 than 2008, which would dramatically favor Republicans.
And so, I was shocked on election night when Pennsylvania was immediately called for Obama.
Here are the facts: The initial reporting after the election said that Romney fared worse in Pennsylvania than John McCain had in 2008. We now know that wasn't the case. Almost a month later, the near-final vote tally is in. In 2008, McCain got 2.65 million votes in Pennsylvania; in 2012, Romney got 2.67 million.
Still, many of us expected Romney would far surpass McCain's total.
Consider Obama's numbers in Pennsylvania. In 2008, Obama won the state by 10 points; in 2012, by 5. Obama took 18 Pennsylvania counties in 2008; in 2012, he won 13. In 2008, Obama got 3.28 million votes in this state; in 2012, he got 2.98 million.
OK, so how did Obama pull it out?
Three words: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Philadelphia.
Obama won Philadelphia by nearly 500,000 votes. Some of the voting behavior there was outrageous. As The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, in 59 Philadelphia voting divisions, the vote total was 19,605 for Obama and zero for Romney. Yes, that's right: zero for Romney.
In addition to Philadelphia, the vast majority of the 13 counties that voted Obama are in Eastern Pennsylvania, which, in effect, is basically New Jersey. The two Western Pennsylvania counties that went for Obama were Erie and Allegheny.
As for Allegheny, Mitt Romney, a wealthy Republican, did impressively well in this longtime Democrat stronghold, receiving 42 percent of the vote here.
But that couldn't counter Philadelphia.
Mitt Romney put up a decent fight in Pennsylvania but his campaign didn't turn 'em out. And that added up to yet another predictable presidential win for Democrats in Pennsylvania.
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Pirates must land Lester
- Steelers notebook: Brown calls Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger ‘terrible’
- After years of lobbying, Big Ben has Steelers running the no-huddle
- Joe Greene only 2nd player in Steelers history to get number retired
- Steelers hold high hopes for pass defense
- Pirates notebook: Trade rumors for Red Sox pitcher Lester still swirling
- Glassport police name new chief
- Area first responders interact at active-shooter workshop
- McKeesport home invasion suspect waives extradition
- East Allegheny teachers respond in contract dispute
- Elizabeth Township police chief put on leave, manager terminated