Pennsylvania has yet again maintained its status of being a swing state in presidential elections.
Four years ago, President George W Bush, who was then seeking re-election on a Republican Party ticket, and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party candidate, engaged in a bruising battle for votes in the Keystone state. Numerous polls had earlier indicated that the pivotal state was up for grabs.
Kerry won the election, garnering 2,938,095 (50.92 percent) against Bush’s 2,793,847 (48.42 percent). The contributing factor to Kerry’s victory, was the win he registered in the populated cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie. In Philadelphia County alone, for example, Kerry whitewashed President Bush, racking up approximately 400,000 more votes than the president, a fact that allowed him to lose other less-populated areas.
Though the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh made a significant contribution, many liberal Republicans in suburban Philadelphia counties (Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, and somewhat in Chester) also voted for Kerry, which was considered the deciding factor.
The election results also showed the Democratic Presidential candidate had registered narrow margins of victory around cities like Scranton, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, and Pittsburgh suburbs. President Bush, on the other hand, recorded huge margins in Central Pennsylvania and the Northern Tier. Cities considered GOP home grounds like Huntingdon, Williamsport, Lebanon, York, Lancaster and Altoona, voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.
Senator Kerry won only 12 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, but the 12 counties had the highest populations in the commonwealth. Many political anaylsts argued that if Philadelphia were to be excluded in the 2004 election, President Bush would have won Pennsylvania by a slim margin.
Majority of the pollsters had predicted a Kerry win of 49 percent of the vote against Bushs’ 47.
However, the Republican Party clinched U.S. senate seat, with Arlen Specter, winning the seat registering 2,890,791 (53 percent) against Joseph Hoeffel’s (Democratic Party) 2,296,379 (42 percent).
In the U.S. House, the Republican Party emerged the winner, once more, clinching 13 seats of the 21 in the swing state.
Despite being a battleground for the votes in the recent elections, historically, the state also referred to as Keystone State has leaned more towards the Democrats. In the last fourteen presidential elections, Pennsylvania has voted more Democratic than the rest of the nation. Analyst, Jay Cost, writing on the realclearpolitics.com
site, says the Democratic tilt on average, for Pennsylvania, has been about 4 percentage points. In 2004, for example, President Bush beat senator Kerry nationwide by 2.4 points, but lost Pennsylvania by 2.5 points, for a Democratic tilt of 4.9 points.
However, it is not always a guarantee that the state will vote for the Democrats, hence giving it the distinctive swing state name.
The only two Republican Party presidential candidates, who have managed to break the jinx are Ronald Reagan who won the popular vote in two consecutive elections in 1980 and 1984 and incumbent President George W Bush in 19988.
Just like in the current election, in 2004, the battle for the state was too close to call, and it was one of the most visited by the two presidential candidates in the run up to the election.
The issues the two candidates campaigned on win votes were economy, healthcare, education and security. The economy topic kept Senator Kerry competitive, as the state that was experiencing economic downturn, while President Bush dwelt more on security, clarity and his leadership qualities.
— BY JEFF OTIENO