Pennsylvania Losing Swing-State Status

Democrats Strengthen Grip on Onetime Bellwether


By Lisa Hostein

Published October 11, 2012, issue of October 19, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Pennsylvania, it seems, has lost its swing. We’re not talking 1940s big band music or even baseball here, despite the disappointing finish of the Phillies and the Pirates. The losing streak extends to the political realm as well. This once heavily courted state is quickly losing its standing as a toss-up. With President Barack Obama enjoying leads in recent state polling, the Keystone State no longer merits the star status it commanded — and enjoyed — in previous presidential battles.

For Obama supporters, of course, this is a good thing. They’ll sacrifice all the attention for the peace of mind that Obama is ahead. Mitt Romney supporters, for their part, hold out hope that the dynamics could still change in the final weeks of the campaign, given Romney’s first debate bounce.

It’s easy to see why until just a month ago Pennsylvania rated swing status. Although the Democratic candidate has trumped his opponent in the state in each of the last five presidential races, the fact is that Pennsylvanians defy easy prediction when it comes to choosing their political leaders. Their erratic voting record is why the state often arouses the hopes of candidates across the political spectrum. This is, after all, the state that elected a (Jewish) Democrat, Ed Rendell, as governor during the same period that Rick Santorum, the archconservative and recent presidential hopeful, represented the state for two terms in the U.S. Senate. Since the 1970s, in fact, residents here have thrown the party in power out of the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg every eight years. And while Obama won here easily by more than 10% in 2008, two years later, voters elected conservative Republicans Tom Corbett as governor and Pat Toomey as junior senator.

It follows that when the Keystone State is in play, so, too, are its Jews. Jews make up an estimated 2.3% of the state’s population, according to Jewish Virtual Library, with close to 300,000 Jews in all. With a demographic that skews older, the number of actual voters in that mix could make a difference in a close election. More than two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s Jews live in Philadelphia and its ever-extending suburbs. This includes Montgomery County, once a Republican stronghold, which since 2008 has more registered Democrats than Republicans. In 2008, the county, where 30% of the region’s Jews live, garnered national media and campaign attention as a must-win and bellwether for where the nation was headed.

But as the campaigns turn their attention elsewhere, the Jewish community is not attracting the multiple high-level surrogate appearances and advertising dollars it did in the past. Even the Republican Jewish Coalition, which had positioned Pennsylvania squarely in its $6 million campaign to target Jewish constituencies in battleground states, has significantly scaled back its operations here.

While the national pitch for the Jews has shifted to Florida, Ohio and Nevada, locally, Jews are still swinging hard — both for the candidates and at each other.

Both Romney and Obama have garnered significant financial support from Pennsylvania’s Jews. Although figures are hard to come by, given the lack of full disclosure on campaign financing, insiders say that Romney has pulled in more Jewish Republican funds than did previous GOP nominees. The Philadelphia Jewish community boasts Romney’s state finance committee chairman, attorney Charles Kopp, and a top bundler, Mitchell Morgan, a Montgomery County developer. As the Jewish Exponent’s Bryan Schwartzman reported recently, Morgan says he has raised a total of $1.7 million from friends and associates and has hosted the candidate in his home three times in the past year.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.