Donald Trump came to Pennsylvania early and often in his quest for the White House.
Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes were very much a part of his campaign strategy and, indeed, they put The Donald over the top on Nov. 8.
But future candidates likely won’t be able to count on the commonwealth in quite the same way.
“At the dawn of the last century (1910), Pennsylvania had 36 congressional districts and now we’re down to 18 and could be down to 17,” said Republican strategist Chris Nicholas of the Eagle Consulting Group.
Projections suggest that when the next census is taken in 2020, Pennsylvania and northeastern neighbors New York, Rhode Island, Ohio and West Virginia will all lose at least one seat. Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and Colorado are all poised to pick them up.
“It’s obviously not good for a country, a state, a town, any community when people leave, and when more people are leaving Pennsylvania than moving into Pennsylvania, that’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Dickinson College assistant political science professor David O’Connell, who added that more political might in the south and west means those regions’ needs will be more adequately addressed in Washington, D.C.
Pennsylvania’s decline has been steady for a century. Though its population does grow each decade, its growth is not as robust as other states. Nicholas blames the inventor of large-scale and inexpensive air conditioning.
“That’s what made the ability to move to Florida and Arizona so appealing,” Nicholas said with a chuckle. “Even though it’s 110, it’s 68 degrees in your house.”
When the final numbers are tabulated in 2020, Pennsylvania likely loses a House seat in Congress. Currently, there are 18 congressional districts in the commonwealth, 13 Republican and five Democrat. Nicholas says if chopping must be done, it’s likely to be done in a GOP region between the Midstate and Pittsburgh.
“In the last decade’s census, only three counties west of Centre County grew at all and that was by a small margin. The growth has been in the east in ‘you guys’ Pennsylvania. It’s not been in the west’s ‘yinzer’ part of the state,” Nicholas said.
While Pennsylvania may shed one, maybe two electoral votes, it won’t shed its role as a battleground state. That mantle will only be reinforced by Trump’s victory. He has proven to even doubtful Republicans they can play here.
“I think both Republicans and Democrats are going to say, ‘this is a state that has a substantial amount of electoral college votes and it’s a state that both parties have a chance to be competitive in,” O’Connell said, adding that the biggest states like California, New York and Texas are already solidly in one camp or the other and not really in play.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.