Can A Republican Win Pennsylvania?

Apr 28, 2016

Well, of course. But it's been a long time.

Pennsylvania has become a fairly solid blue state since then-candidate George H. W. Bush won the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, but that didn’t stop GOP hopeful Donald Trump from winning a substantial number of votes on Tuesday.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Trump won the state's Republican primary with 888,578 votes. Pennsylvania GOP delegates aren't required to vote with the popular opinion, but Trump needs at least 1,237 nationwide to cement his position in the general election.

Hillary Clinton inched closer to becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee with a resounding 913,654 votes and 281 delegates nabbed among five state primaries. That showing all but eliminates rival Sen. Bernie Sanders with her 2,151 committed delegates and superdelegates overall.

Whether Republicans ultimately choose Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Trump, Pittsburgh consultant John Denny said he doesn’t see the general election splitting heavily toward the GOP.

"Maybe the Republicans will get 50 percent of the independent votes, maybe a little more, but they're going to need a whole lot more than that to win Pa.," he said.

Denny, who worked for Bush as the executive director of his Pennsylvania campaign, said Trump’s spot trailing the leading Democratic candidate is expected. Barack Obama dealt the Republican Party a tough blow in 2008. By his re-election in 2012, party members had determined that in order to win, changes had to be made.

“You've got to figure a way to appeal more to the minorities, the Hispanics, the women voters," Denny said. "You've got to follow what the recommendations are rather than doubling down on past strategies that have failed."

He said, unfortunately, GOP party members didn’t heed their own advice.

“Looking forward, the question I think is going to be whether Republicans continue to go with more conservative candidates or whether they’re able to moderate a little bit and present a face that is more hospitable to a moderate state like Pennsylvania,” said John Hanley, assistant professor of political science at Duquesne University.

Hanley said the GOP should look at whether candidates will appeal to Pennsylvania voters specifically. 

By the Department of State's last tally, Pennsylvania boasted more than 4 million registered Democrats, about 3.1 million Republicans and 665,000 registered independent voters. Denny said the Republican candidate will need to pick up nearly every one.