But if the trends of the past few election cycles continue, and Democrats continue to make gains among minorities and with white voters that have high socioeconomic status, while Republicans perform strongly with working-class whites, then Pennsylvania could become more and more pivotal – and perhaps even essential to the Republican electoral math.
If so, it is a state that Republicans will want to concentrate on from the earliest stages of the campaign. And their nominee will need to build a robust turnout operation there, since the strategic imperative in inelastic states is not so much in persuading swing voters but in getting the party base to the polls.
This may particularly hold in Pennsylvania, where the messages that appeal to voters in the central and western portion of the state could turn off those in the Philadelphia suburbs. It’s not enough to persuade those voters, you also have to turn them out.
Democrats turn out a high percentage of their voters in Pennsylvania, and have won at least 2.9 million votes there in each of the past three elections. Republican performance peaked in 2004, when George W. Bush won almost 2.8 million votes. In a close national race, Republicans will need to identify and turn out another 200,000 voters or so to win the state.