The only blue states that have become less blue since 1998 are Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.With the right policy steps, Pennsylvania could have been in play in 2012. It was very close with relatively little direct spending by the Romney campaign. It is very possible that the Republican road to the White House is through the Rust Belt. But putting this area in play might demand that the GOP rally around the message of middle-class and working-class uplift, industrial renewal, and a popular prosperity.
Of the three, Pennsylvania is the biggest prize with 20 Electoral Votes.
The last time a Republican won the state was in 1988 when George H.W. Bush managed to eke out 50 percent of the vote in the Philadelphia market, and carried the rest of the state with 52 percent of the vote. Since then, however, Republicans have failed miserably in Philadelphia--which makes up 40-42 percent of the vote--and haven’t run up the score enough in the rest of the state to make up the difference.
In 2012, Obama carried the Philadelphia area by 63 percent, while Romney won the rest of the state by 55 percent. If Romney had gotten just 45 percent of the vote in Philadelphia--and still carried the rest of the state by 55 percent--he would have won the state. In other words, if a Republican could lose Philadelphia by the same percentage they win the rest of the state, they could turn the state red.
The Romney campaign spent $8.9M on broadcast TV in Nevada during the general election to get 46 percent of the vote. In Pennsylvania, the Romney campaign spent a paltry $2.4M and got 47 percent. In other words, Team Romney spent four times as much in Nevada as they did in Pennsylvania, to get essentially the same percentage of the vote. Now, imagine that the money invested in Pennsylvania came earlier--and more intensely.
Many Republicans are sympathetic to the Gang of Eight immigration bill because they hope it will benefit the party electorally. But the Gang of Eight's guest-worker provisions---the corporate giveaways and enshrining of a two-tier labor model---could undercut the outreach to workers needed to edge states like Pennsylvania into the GOP column.