After the Wyoming caucuses on Saturday and the Mississippi primary on Tuesday (and perhaps even before those contests are finished), all attention will shift to the state of Pennyslvania in the next (though not necessarily last) showdown between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The lengthy 6+ week run up to the Pennyslvania primary is drawing comparisons to Iowa, where most presidential hopefuls, not so long ago, spent most of their time and resources in 2007 before the first-in-the-nation contest was held on January 3rd. Of course, some candidates, like Tommy Thompson, John Edwards, and Sam Brownback, spent months in the Hawkeye State, so Pennyslvania’s campaign will be more of a ‘condensed Iowa’ – both in terms of the number of weeks as well as the number of candidate options.
But there are some unique differences between Pennsylvania and Iowa. First, Pennsylvania has a much larger population—approximately 4.2 times that of Iowa—with 274 people per square mile, compared to just 52 persons per square mile in the less urban state of Iowa. The Mitt Romney campaign made a point to make a stop in each of Iowa’s nearly 100 counties. The same will not be said of the Obama and Clinton campaigns, who will likely focus a large part of their resources to the more populous eastern (Berks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster County, Lehigh County, Luzerne County, Montgomery County, Northampton County, Philadelphia County) and western (Allegheny County, Butler County, Bucks County, Erie County, Fayette County, Lawrence County, Washington County, Westmoreland County) parts of the state
Pennsylvania also has a much higher non-white population, approximately 14.3 percent, compared to just 5.4 percent in Iowa. This should advantage Obama, as the difference in non-whites is largely comprised in the black demographic (10.7 percent in PA, 2.5 percent in IA), compared to Hispanics (4.2 percent in PA, 3.8 percent in IA), or Asians (2.4 percent in PA, 1.6 percent in IA).
Clinton, however, has been doing better in the Democratic primaries among less educated Americans, and Pennsylvania has a notably lower number of high school graduates (81.9 percent) than does Iowa (86.1 percent). Pennsylvania also has a higher poverty rate (11.2 percent) than Iowa (10.5 percent).
It has also been said, despite several endorsements by labor unions for Obama, that blue-collar working folks lean towards Clinton (as evidenced by her victory in Ohio). Pennsylvania has a significantly larger union household rate (31 percent) than does Iowa (22 percent), which should work to her advantage.
All this adds up to an exciting race, to be sure, although the first poll conducted after Clinton’s big victories in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island on Tuesday, finds the New York Senator with a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania: 52 to 37 percent (69% likely voters, polled by Rasmussen on March 6th). The Keystone State is certainly being billed as Clinton’s to lose.