Trump realigned Pa. voting patterns
By MARC LEVY
HARRISBURG — Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania since 1988, and he did it in ways that turned around some conventional voting patterns in the battleground state.
It was stunning more so because the state was long a key stepping stone for Democrats to the White House: No Democrat has won the White House without Pennsylvania since Harry Truman in 1948.
Trump’s 49 percent to 48 percent victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton was narrow. His 2.9 million votes were fewer than Democratic President Barack Obama’s nearly 3 million votes in 2012 or Obama’s nearly 3.3 million votes in 2008, while turnout was nearly identical. But Trump’s support was just enough.
In large part, Clinton’s biggest margins came from Philadelphia, three suburban counties and Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh. That roughly 740,000-vote margin was larger than Obama’s versus Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 and normally would be enough for a Democrat to win Pennsylvania.
But Trump realigned Pennsylvania’s electorate. He drove up big margins in much of the rest of the state, besting Romney’s 2012 margins just about everywhere else. He even scored impressive tallies in counties that traditionally favor Democrats.
Nobody seemed to foresee Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania. Even the campaign of fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey believed Trump would lose, based on its internal pre-election polling.
While statewide turnout was 68 percent, some rural and exurban precincts saw more than 80 percent turnout, providing a source of strength for Trump, said Mark Harris, the general consultant to Toomey’s campaign.
“That helped move the dial, for sure for Trump,” Harris said.
Meanwhile, black voters and college students showed up in lackluster numbers for Clinton, based on precinct data and an analysis of absentee ballot returns by age, Harris said.
The result was an electorate that had more working-class voters, a population less ideological and driven more by message, than in 2012, Harris said.
Trump had the support of more than 3 in 5 white men in Pennsylvania, according to an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. He did even better among white men without college degrees, getting about 7 in 10 of their votes. White women were divided about evenly between the candidates while Clinton won among younger voters and dominated among minorities.
Pennsylvania’s biggest city, a Democratic bastion where turnout is closely watched, did not generate the huge margins for Clinton that Obama scored. Clinton won Philadelphia by 455,000 votes — compared with Obama’s 479,000 in 2008 and 492,000 in 2012 — although Clinton received more help than Philadelphia delivered to Al Gore in 2000 or John Kerry in 2004.
Trump was deeply unpopular in the four suburban collar counties around Philadelphia. Not since 1976 has a presidential candidate captured Pennsylvania without winning the collective four-county vote in Philadelphia’s heavily populated suburbs.
Obama won the four counties — Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery — by 123,000 votes in 2012 and 202,000 in 2008. Trump lost by about 180,000.
Clinton won 11 counties; Obama won 13, including Erie and Luzerne, which Clinton lost. Both of those counties have Democratic registration advantages.
Trump outperformed Romney by the biggest numbers in four Democratic counties: in Philadelphia by about 37,000 votes, Luzerne by 32,000, Lackawanna by 23,000 and Erie by 21,000.
In every region besides the southeast, Trump did better than Romney. Perhaps most notably, in 10 northeastern counties, Trump piled up about 95,000 more votes than did Romney, flipping an area that Obama narrowly won, thanks primarily to the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
In three blocs of counties — southwest, northwest and southcentral — Trump piled up about 60,000 more votes in each region than did Romney. In four eastern counties where Democrats often compete — Berks, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill — Trump piled up about 60,000 more votes.
The 68 percent turnout was nearly identical to 2008 and 2012. About 6 million votes were cast, more than the 5.8 million in 2012 and slightly more than the Democrats’ wave election in 2008.