Harrisburg, Pa. – With less than a month away from the election, focus is turning to the swing state of Pennsylvania. The keystone state always plays a key role in the presidential election, and this year Pennsylvania voters may decide the outcome for the entire county.
In fact, Trump has an 84 percent chance of winning the presidency if he wins Pennsylvania and Biden has a 96 percent chance of winning the presidency if the keystone state votes blue, according to models by FiveThirtyEight.
Pennsylvania's formidable role is, in part, due to its high number of electoral votes.
There are 538 seats in the electoral college, which are divided among all 50 states according to population. Generally, states award their electoral seats to whichever candidate wins the popular vote of the state. Only Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral seats according to the proportion of votes each candidate receives. A candidate must win a majority–over 270 seats–in order to win the presidential election.
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The keystone state has a total of 20 electoral college seats making it the fifth most electorally-influential state in the entire country. As a swing state with such a large number of electoral seats, Pennsylvania's electoral vote outcomes could provide either Donald Trump or Joe Biden with the decisive counts needed to secure the electoral college.
According to FiveThirtyEight's data, Pennsylvania has a 28.5% chance of being a "tipping point" state in this year's presidential election because of its electoral influence.
Additionally, Pennsylvania's political geography and its recent trend to the right have contributed to the state's recent reputation as an unpredictable state in the general election.
In 2016, Donald Trump won the popular vote in Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points. Prior to that year, the state had voted blue in six consecutive presidential elections and had been more Democratic-leaning than the national popular vote in every presidential election since 1952.
Historically, political analysts often use Pennsylvania to represent voting trends across the country, since voter geography of United States can almost perfectly be mapped onto the voter geography of Pennsylvania.
Since 2016, the state has started to move right, especially within areas that were predominantly democratic in the past.
The suburbs of Philadelphia tend to vote blue, but the city of Philadelphia actually voted more Republican in 2016. The city of Pittsburgh and much of Allegheny county is one of the few areas in the state becoming more blue.
Counties surrounding the Pittsburgh area, in Southwestern Pa., have slowly been turning red. The middle of Pennsylvania is consistently red (besides the academic hub of State College in Centre county) and counties in the northeastern region of the state have also trended more red in recent years.
The Republican lean is primarily driven by working-class white Pennsylvanians. Democratic support among white, non-college educated voters in Pennsylvania dropped 8.4% from 2012 to 2016, according to the Center for American Progress.
The reason for their shift is complicated, but primary factors appear to be a decline in labor union membership and frustrations over the Democrat's environmentally-driven policies which have been blamed for the decline of mining and manufacturing jobs in the state.
However, Democratic support among African-American voters in the keystone state has also waned in recent years, which is often cited as a key reason Hillary Clinton's campaign failed to secure the state in the 2016 presidential election. In 2012, just 3.7 percent of African-American voters voted Republican, but in the 2016 election it jumped to 7.7 percent, according to the Center for American Progress.
Currently, national polls show former Vice President Joe Biden as polling above Presidential incumbent Donald Trump; however, the numbers are close and within the margin of error. With such a close race anticipated across the country, and President Trump's history of out performing in the poll, the Democrats will certainly face an uphill battle for Pennsylvania in November.
Ultimately, whichever candidate wins the keystone stone, will likely hold the key to the Oval Office.