Pennsylvania Republicans Playing with Fire


Pennsylvania Republicans are playing with fire.

To be more specific, Pennsylvania Republicans – led by state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, with, according to recent news reports, the support of Gov. Tom Corbett – are considering a significant change to the method by which the state awards its Electoral votes.

Under a proposal currently before the state legislature, Pennsylvania would award two Electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote, then would award one Electoral vote for each congressional district won by a candidate for President.

Let’s put that in context. In the 2008 contest, Democrat Barack Obama won the statewide vote by about 620,000 votes, and won nine of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts – the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, and 15th (all found in the Philadelphia media market); the 14th (in the Pittsburgh market); and the 11th (in the Northeast Pennsylvania market). Republican John McCain won the remaining 10 congressional districts.

So had this scheme been in place in 2008, Obama would have won just 11 of Pennsylvania’s Electoral votes, rather than all 21, and the remaining 10 Electoral votes would have gone to GOP nominee John McCain.

Given Obama’s statewide 54-44 percent victory over McCain, one can see how an 11-10 split, rather than 21-0, would appear attractive to Keystone State Republicans. It would, they would argue, have been “more fair.”

But let’s be honest: Partisans (of both parties) aren’t interested in “fairness,” they’re interested in an advantage. They only cite the “fairness” argument when it serves their partisan interest.

Their longer-range strategic thinking is simple: Pennsylvania hasn’t awarded an Electoral vote to a Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan was President, and shifting to winner-by-congressional district would mean that future GOP presidential nominees would stand to split Pennsylvania’s vote and pick up at least a share of its Electoral College bounty.

Too, a clear (if unremarked upon) advantage of moving to such a system would be to reduce the benefit of vote fraud. There’d be less need to manufacture 100,000 “extra” votes in Philadelphia, for instance, if the size of the statewide prize were reduced. And that could positively impact GOP hopes in other statewide races that take place at the same time as a presidential contest – say, for instance, the upcoming 2012 U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Bob Casey Jr. and whomever the GOP nominates.

Democrats, not surprisingly, are in high dudgeon. But because they are in the minority in the Pennsylvania legislature – they are down by 112-91 in the lower chamber, and by 30-20 in the upper – and because the GOP controls the Governorship, it really doesn’t matter much what Democrats in Pennsylvania have to say.

But what about Republicans? Is it possible that while the maneuver could produce short-term gains, it would produce longer-term losses? Could the Law of Unintended Consequences – the one law that cannot be repealed – wreak havoc down the road?

Ask some GOP members of the state’s congressional delegation, and you’ll get a resounding “Yes!”

Following the 2010 elections, Republicans now control 12 of the state’s 19 congressional districts. Of the 12 Republicans, no fewer than five were elected to represent districts that voted for Obama in 2008: Jim Gerlach in the 6th, Pat Meehan in the 7th, Mike Fitzpatrick in the 8th, Lou Barletta in the 11th, and Charlie Dent in the 15th.

Not surprisingly, they’re not too sure this new proposal would benefit their interests.

Their fear is simple: The Obama campaign would likely take ground-game resources out of inner city Philadelphia districts like the 1st and 2nd and inner city Pittsburgh districts like the 14th, and put them instead into more marginal suburban and exurban districts like the 6th, 7th, and 8th.

And then there’s the National Republican Congressional Committee. High on their 2010 target list are Democratic Congressmen Jason Altmire (who represents Pennsylvania’s 4th district – which he held on to by fewer than 4,000 votes in 2010) and Mark Critz (who represents Pennsylvania’s 12th district – which he held by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2010).

Because Pennsylvania must give up a seat in reapportionment – and because the GOP controls the redistricting process, as it did in 2001 – it’s been widely believed for some time that the new map would push Altmire and Critz into the same western Pennsylvania district, which may or may not be a solid Democrat district, depending on how many voters are moved from Democrat Mike Doyle’s 14th district and Republican Tim Murphy’s 18th district.

So a move by Pennsylvania Republicans to generate more Electoral votes for the GOP nominee could result in tighter races, and tougher reelection campaigns, for at least three of the state’s 12 GOP Congressmen, and could complicate matters for a potential GOP pickup in the House delegation.

And that’s just the potential havoc that could be caused in Pennsylvania. What if this proposal were to be enacted in other states won by Obama in 2008, which are now controlled by the GOP – say, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan?

Stay tuned.




This was first posted to the Americans for a Conservative President web site.



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