Despite holding 210 Democratic delegates, 4.4 percent of the nationwide total, Pennsylvania’s primary is typically much too late in the primary season to hold any real sway in deciding the party’s nominee. This Tuesday, however, Pennsylvania has the theoretical opportunity to be a major player.
Political strategist James Carville once famously described Pennsylvania as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.” Carville’s colorful hyperbole notwithstanding, there is stark contrast between Pennsylvania’s two major urban centers and the vast expanse of farmland and Appalachia that separates them. The startling cultural and economic differences have earned the state the moniker “Pennsyltucky.”
But even as results in this year’s Democratic primaries have largely split along regional lines, with Sanders performing much stronger in rural areas, Pennsylvania’s irregular geography shouldn’t pose much of a challenge for the Clinton campaign.
If recent data is to be believed, this contest will be about as active as a post-cheesesteak coma. According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, Clinton commands a dominant lead in Pennsylvania, at 55 percent to Sanders’s 40. On the Democratic side, delegates are awarded proportionally, meaning that even a modest Sanders victory would do little to close the 750 delegate gap by which he trails Clinton.
At a rally in Dunmore this Saturday, Clinton spoke fondly of visiting her grandparents at their Scranton cabin as a child. Scranton mayor William Courtright described Clinton as “a local woman that made it big.”
It’s not just in Central Pennsylvania where Clinton is ramping up support, either. With this year’s Democratic National Convention set in Philadelphia, Clinton has spent ample time at events with mayor Jim Kenney, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and advocacy groups for women’s rights and gun control. Governor Tom Wolf endorsed Clinton in June.
Sanders—often popular with the college crowd—has his own share of devoted supporters in Pennsylvania, but there are simply not enough to hold back the Clinton tide. He whipped the Penn State campus into a frenzy at a rally last Tuesday, but delivered a “noticeably subdued” performance at Millersville University in Lancaster County on Friday.
Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote, and she is poised to do just as well if not better this year. On Tuesday, expect both halves of Pennsyltucky to find a common ground, for once.
Photo: The Pittsburgh skyline.