York County's role in presidential election

David Weissman
  • Washington Post columnist chooses York County to give overview of presidential election in Pa.
  • Polls and recent elections suggest Trump could widen margin of victory for GOP in York County.
  • Political analyst: GOP must widen victories in midstate counties to overcome Dem-heavy Philadelphia.

Dropping from 38 electoral college votes in 1938 to 20 votes in 2016, Pennsylvania's influence on the presidential election has diminished, but most national media outlets and political analysts still consider it a "swing state."

The state has sided with the Democratic Party's nominee for six consecutive elections, which bodes well for candidate Hillary Clinton, but Republican nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed his belief that Pennsylvania will turn red come November.

E.J. Dionne, a longtime Washington Post progressive columnist, said he doesn't see how Trump can win the presidential election without carrying Pennsylvania. That's why he said he chose to visit the state to speak with potential voters for a column regarding the critical role Pennsylvania will play in the outcome of the election.

But Dionne didn't choose to visit just anywhere in the state; he chose York County.

E.J. Dionne, a veteran Washington Post columnist, talks with York Dispatch editors and members of its editorial advisory board during a lunch meeting Tuesday, August 9, 2016. Bill Kalina photo

"I was toying between (Lancaster and York), and York had the demographics and past voting history that matched what I was looking for," he said at a recent lunch meeting that included York Dispatch editors and politically active residents. "If (Trump) can shift any of the blue industrial states, this has got to be at the top of his list."

EJ DIONNE: Trump confronts 'common decency' in Pa.

Margins: Political analyst G. Terry Madonna, a pollster who founded what is now the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, said all of southcentral Pennsylvania is "extremely important" for Republicans.

While York County and most other counties in the region have traditionally voted Republican, the margins need to be wider in order to overcome the state's largest counties — Philadelphia, Allegheny and Montgomery — that traditionally side with the Democratic nominee, Madonna explained.

Recent general and primary voting results suggest Trump has a chance to do just that.

Brooks and Dionne on the GOP's dilemma and the role of 'common decency' in the campaign

After garnering more than 54 percent of the state's votes in 2008, Democratic President Barack Obama received just 52 percent of the votes in 2012, when he tallied less than 300,000 more votes in the state than Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Philadelphia favored the president by approximately 465,000 votes in 2012.

E.J. Dionne, a veteran Washington Post columnist, talks with York Dispatch editors and members of its editorial advisory board during a lunch meeting Tuesday, August 9, 2016. Bill Kalina photo

In York County, Romney defeated Obama by approximately 21 percentage points, as opposed to 2008, when McCain carried the county by about 13.5 percentage points.

Trump: Trump's primary results suggest he is significantly more popular in York County than either McCain or Romney ever were.

Romney received about 57 percent, or 23,500 votes, during the primary, when less than 33 percent of GOP-registered voters turned up.

Trump, meanwhile, received nearly 59 percent, or 42,000 votes, during the most recent primary election, when more than 51 percent of GOP-registered voters went to the polls.

Governors, presidents and how we vote

Madonna said it's important for Trump to keep conservative voters on his side despite numerous GOP party members backing away. York County's notable GOP members, including U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and state Sen. Scott Wagner, have mostly voiced support for the Republican candidate.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, only defeated Bernie Sanders in the county by less than 1,000 votes during the primaries.

Madonna said Sanders supporters seem to be coming around slowly, and he'd be surprised if Clinton doesn't receive 85 to 90 percent of their votes. He added, though, that 15 percent of Sanders supporters not voting for Clinton could make a big difference.

The most recently released Franklin & Marshall College poll shows Clinton ahead of Trump by 11 percentage points in the state.

But that same poll shows Trump carrying the central region of the state by 13 percentage points. If that gap widens, the Democrats' huge advantage in Philadelphia will begin to look less daunting for Trump.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.