Record GOP turnout expected for Pa. primary

Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Presidential candidates campaigned Monday from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia in a last-ditch bid for votes in Pennsylvania’s first competitive Republican primary in decades.

Campaign events were scheduled in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas and Wilkes-Barre, with Republican front-runner Donald Trump ending his day at a rally in Wilkes-Barre and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton ending at a Philadelphia rally.

Trump and Clinton lead polls ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.

At a campaign rally at the University of Pittsburgh, Democrat Bernie Sanders told the crowd that young and poorer people need to vote if anything is to change.

“That means every person here has got to understand that you are very, very powerful people if you choose to exercise that right,” Sanders said. Then he told the crowd, “let’s have the largest voter turnout in Pennsylvania history.”

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich stopped at a diner in south Philadelphia on Monday morning, chatting with customers over bacon, sausage, eggs and hash browns as he teams up with rival-turned-ally Ted Cruz to block Trump’s quest for the nomination.

“The reason why I’m in this race is I’m the only one who beats Hillary Clinton,” Kasich told reporters.

Pollsters expect a record Republican Party primary voter turnout. Turnout in 1980 of 1.2 million voters, or 55 percent, is the most recent record high, but state elections officials could not produce data before that.

Meanwhile, pollsters expect Democratic Party turnout to be lower than it was in 2008, when 2.3 million voters, or nearly 56 percent, cast ballots in the race between then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Clinton. Clinton won Pennsylvania by about 200,000 votes, or 9 percent.

The Republican presidential primary is something of a beauty contest, since the 54 delegates up for grabs are not promised to the statewide winner.

Rather, the delegate candidates who are elected — three in each of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts — can vote for whomever they want at the convention, and the candidates’ campaigns are seeking to woo their support ahead of time.

For the Democrats, 127 delegates are up for grabs in the primary, and they are apportioned based on the vote in each congressional district.

The primary election also will decide contests for party nominees for U.S. Senate, 18 U.S. House seats, state attorney general and 228 state legislative seats.

A four-way Democratic U.S. Senate primary has come down to Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak for the nod to challenge Republican incumbent Pat Toomey in November.

Vice President Joe Biden made a campaign stop Monday morning at a Philadelphia diner with McGinty, part of the broad establishment support she’s received in a bid to defeat Sestak, who party leaders view as a maverick. Party money is pouring into the race, with McGinty’s side outspending Sestak’s two-to-one.

In the attorney general’s race, three Democrats and two Republicans are running to succeed Democrat Kathleen Kane.

In congressional races, U.S. Rep. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia is running for a 12th term in a four-way primary as he faces trial on federal racketeering and bribery charges in May. Also, Democrats and Republicans are running to succeed retiring U.S. Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick and Joe Pitts in southeastern Pennsylvania.

 — AP reporter Errin Haines Whack contributed to this report from Philadelphia.