Pa. primary in play this year

Greg Gross

For the first time in decades, Pennsylvania voters will be a factor in which candidates gain the Republican and Democratic nominations.

The hotly contested races in both parties haven't produced a clear winner this late in the game. Though that likely makes life more difficult for party bosses and the candidates, it's good news for voters in the state and even better news for political analysts.

The mystery that is Pennsylvania's delegate system

"It's going to be exciting," said Jon Price, a history and political science instructor at Penn State York, who's been closely following the action.

All that excitement will likely start showing up on your television in the form of political commercials, and the major candidates may make stops in the area all in hopes of winning votes and, more importantly, delegates.

Sorry, Independents and unaffiliated voters. You don't get a say in who wins because Pennsylvania's primary is closed.

York's political parties gear up for primary

Delegates: What's at stake for the candidates is Pennsylvania's 54 elected Republican delegates and the 127 elected Democratic delegates. Factoring in the nonelected delegates, there's a total of 71 Republican delegates and 210 Democratic delegates up for grabs.

A win by frontrunner Hillary Clinton could end  Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign. If Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz eke out a win over businessman Donald Trump, it would be additional evidence that the Republican National Convention in Cleveland will likely be brokered, making Pennsylvania's GOP delegates all the more important, said Franklin and Marshall College pollster Terry Madonna.

Franklin and Marshall College Dr. Terry Madonna.

The Keystone State  was last contested for Democrats in 2008, when then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was in a battle for the nomination with Clinton, then a senator from New York. Though Obama all but had the race under wraps, Clinton won Pennsylvania.

Republicans in the state have to dig deeper into history to find when their primary votes mattered in a presidential election. Pennsylvania's GOP voters gave President Gerald Ford an overwhelming victory over Ronald Reagan in the contested 1976 primary. However, Ford lost the presidency to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Four years later, George H.W. Bush won the GOP primary in the state, but Reagan, who would go on to win the White House, won the majority of delegates. Also in 1980, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy won Pennsylvania's Democratic primary over Carter, Price said.

Jon Price, a history and political science instructor at Penn State York.

Inundated: Fast forward to the 2016 election and some campaigns have already set up camp in the area. Sanders and Clinton are opening campaign offices in Harrisburg. The rest of the candidates could follow suit with offices in the area.

Sanders also became the first candidate in this election season to host a rally in the western part of  Pennsylvania when he visited Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Some or all of the candidates could also make stops in the area, and, undoubtedly, political commercials will start showing.

One thing that is almost certain is voter turnout in the primary will be higher than normal, Price and Madonna said.

"All the evidence shows the Republican turnout is going to be very good," Madonna said.

— Reach Greg Gross at