Still, there are reasons for GOP strategists to look long and hard at the state this time, thinking 2012 could be different.

The GOP controls both chambers of the state Legislature, the governorship, one of the state’s Senate seats and a large majority of the House delegation (in part because of creative mapmaking). George H. W. Bush carried the state in 1988, and in spite of the defeats in 2000 and 2004, those presidential contests in the state were close.

Potentially more important than historical considerations is the makeup of the state. Pennsylvania is an old state. Only Florida, West Virginia and Maine have a higher percentage of residents 65 years old or older, according to 2010 census data. And the Keystone State is white. Among the nation’s dozen largest states, it ranks behind only Ohio for the lowest percentage of minority residents. Just more than one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s population is minority, slightly above Ohio’s 18.9 percent.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won both whites and voters 65 and older in 2008, according to the national exit poll, and the president is likely to be weaker in those two demographic groups again.