Pennsylvania holds keys in Clinton-Trump tilt
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National and state polls conducted after the national party nominating conventions in July picked up a surge by Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRonan Farrow exposes how the media protect the powerful Kamala Harris to Trump Jr.: 'You wouldn't know a joke if one raised you' Comey says he has a 'fantasy' about deleting his Twitter account after end of Trump term MORE. Pennsylvania is no exception.

In the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll, Clinton holds an 11 percent lead over Republican Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE among likely voters, 49 percent to 38 percent. She has a slightly larger edge, 48 percent to 35 percent, among registered voters.

The poll entered the field on Friday, July 29, the day after the Democratic convention adjourned, in order to gauge the bounce for Clinton. The survey asked voters about the Republican convention as well. The poll also picked up the reaction of voters to the debate over the weekend that focused on Trump’s comments about the Kahn family and the response by Gold Star families.

The internals in polls among registered voters clearly spell out why Clinton has opened up a big lead in Pennsylvania.

The Democratic convention appeared to benefit her more than the Republican convention aided Trump. Nearly two in three voters (62 percent) who watched the Democratic convention reported being more likely to vote for Clinton, while only two in five (40 percent) of those who watched the Republican convention said they were more likely to vote for Trump.

Despite the fact that both candidates are more unpopular with voters than popular with the state electorate, there is no indication that voter turnout will be lower than the turnout in 2012. Pennsylvania voters are indicating a willingness to vote in November with some 89 percent of voters saying they are “certain to vote.”

Additionally, a large number of respondents, 74 percent, are “very much interested” in the 2016 election.

Presidential Characteristics

There are a number of characteristics and attributes that matter in the selection of a president. In most of them, Clinton holds sizable leads: the experience to be president, who is better able to handle foreign policy, and who will best protect the US against terrorism. Clinton and Trump are more evenly divided on which candidate is most prepared to fix the nation’s economic problems and who is more honest and trustworthy.

Demographics and Regionalism

In this poll, Clinton has acquired more support among Democratic voters (78 percent) than Trump has among Republican voters (69 percent), which is major reason why she leads in the poll. She also holds the edge in many of the important sub-groups.

Her support comes from female voters garnering 58 percent to Trump’s 27 percent, a stunning 31 percent gap. Trump does win the male vote, but his margin is rather slim, a six-point advantage. There has been an ongoing debate concerning the millennial vote and whether Clinton would carry it, considering the support young voters gave Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on difference with Warren: she's a capitalist 'I'm not' Sunday Show Preview: Trump's allies and administration defend decision on Syria Klobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren MORE. In Pennsylvania, she currently leads the under 35-age group, 45 percent to 25 percent. Clinton also has the edge among voters with incomes $35,000 and higher, and the minority vote.

Trump does top her with voters in the lowest income and education groups, including those that live in the rural parts of the state, say they are conservative, and say they are gun owners. Conversely, Clinton leads among voters with college degrees and non-white voters.

As one might expect, Trump does well in the rust belt portion of the state, the southwest, and in the northwest, another part of the state with a large working class population. He leads in the Pennsylvania “T,” the large swath of geography that goes up through the heartland of the state and fans across the border with New York.

Clinton’s geographic strength is in Philadelphia and its collar counties, the Lehigh Valley, and the northeast. She also leads in Allegheny, largely because of support in Pittsburgh. Put another way, Clinton dominates in the population centers of the state.

The importance of the state

For most of two decades the state was considered a critical swing state in the presidential contest. The expression, win two of three states, Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania, and you won the presidential election was de rigueur. The state was among those getting the most campaign visits by the candidates and the most money spent on television commercials.

Early on in the 2012 Election, Pennsylvania looked like a win for the Democrats. As a result, the Romney and Obama campaigns paid no attention to the state. That changed about two weeks before the election when Romney reached the conclusion he could not win Ohio and finally began to campaign in the Keystone State.

At this point, both campaigns have indicated the importance of Pennsylvania in their Electoral College strategy. Trump somewhat more than the Clinton. Both Clinton and Trump have campaigned in the state since wrapping up their respective nominations. Time will tell as both campaigns reassess their strategies for winning in the battleground states whether they return to Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Senate Contest

There can be no doubt that the Pennsylvania U.S. senate election is one of the key races in the nation. The Democrats need to pick up five seats to take back control of the senate, which they lost in 2014, of course, four if they win the presidency.

Democrat Katie McGinty is challenging Republican incumbent Pat Toomey. The contest pits the conservative Toomey, a former three-term congressman from the Lehigh Valley and head of the Club for Growth, against the liberal McGinty, who worked for Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWhy calls for impeachment have become commonplace Meet Trump's most trusted pollsters A way around our impeachment debacle: Bob Dole's 'censure' solution MORE and Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold Gore2020 general election debates announced Odds place Greta Thunberg as front-runner for this year's Nobel Peace Prize Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia MORE, and more recently was chief-of- staff to Governor Tom Wolf. She also ran in a four-person gubernatorial primary in 2014, coming in fourth to the ultimate winner Tom Wolf.

In the recent F&M poll McGinty holds a one-point lead over Toomey, 39 percent to 38 percent among likely voters, with 23 percent undecided. Her lead is larger among registered voters, 38 percent to 30 percent, with almost one-third of the voters not making a selection as of yet.

It appears that McGinty has benefitted from the decline in ticket splitting so evident in the 2012 presidential election, and her electoral fate could be determined by whether Clinton might win the state by a substantial margin. In 2012, the Democrats swept every statewide office on the ballot for the first time since the 1970’s.

Toomey has not endorsed Trump and did not attend the Republican convention, while McGinty was a strong backer of Hillary Clinton and spoke at the  Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

So far the campaign is dominated by a spate of negative commercials, and is likely to remain bitter. The two campaign and the assorted PACs that have joined in, and with others likely to participate, could top the record spending of $40 plus million that was poured into the 2012 contest between incumbent Democrat Senator Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHere are the Senate Democrats backing a Trump impeachment inquiry over Ukraine call Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE and Republican Tom Smith.

Madonna is the director of the Franklin & Marshall College poll, a professor of Public Affairs, and the director Center for Politics & Public Affairs at the college. Follow him on Twitter @terrymadonna


 

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