The President’s Pennsylvania Problem

Crossposted from DemConWatch.

Obama has his polling problems. In Pennsylvania, his approval rating has fallen to 46/48, his approval amoung Democrats is below the national average and PPP says:

Obama's poll numbers are worse in Pennsylvania than they are in places like Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and New Mexico, all states that went Republican in 2004 even as Pennsylvania voted Democratic. The President's persistently poor numbers in a state that's gone Democratic in every Presidential election for the last 24 years probably make Pennsylvania the place where Obama should be most concerned about his current standing.

PPP goes on to attribute Obama's problem to Hillary Democrats. PPP also has bad news for Obama in North Carolina. Florida, even with Rick Scott, is not any more friendly.

There is something more concerning about Pennsylvania than the polling numbers, though, and that's the dollar numbers. First, let's look at the 2008 vote totals by county:


Philadelphia is actually the little blue area where the last “a” in “Philadelphia” is located. The big blue area to the left is Delaware County, To the left of Delaware County is Chester County, Above that, the dark blue is Montgomery County, and the light blue on the right is Bucks County. This is what gave Obama his win of the state with 54.7% of the vote, with, yes, an assist to the north, plus Pittsburgh, Erie and State College. 

Let's look at the money raised in 2008: (data from Open Secrets, all numbers rounded)

Totals 2008, Pennsylvania, $25.3 million collected statewide:

Top recipients:

Obama $ 11.4 million
McCain $ 4.6 million
Clinton $ 4.3 million
Giuliani $1 .3 million
Biden  $ 950,000
Romney $ 650,000

Overall for the Philadelphia Region (the counties cited above, plus the counties of Gloucester, Camden and Burlington in Southern NJ):

Obama $ 8.5 million
McCain $ 2.7 million

While other candidates received funding (for example, Romeny received $ 476,000) if you look at the ratio of Obama to McCain money, it's about 76% to 24%. 

In the top 4 zip codes, these were the Obama/McCain splits:

19103 (Philadelphia)
     Obama $ 557,000 (85%)
     McCain $ 98,000 (14%)
19010 (Philadelphia)
     Obama $ 307,000 (70%)
     McCain $ 129,000 (30%)
19087 (Wayne)
     Obama $ 264,000 (65%)
     McCain $ 139,000 (35%)
19085 (Villanova)
     Obama $ 186,000 (57%)
     McCain $ 137,000 (42%)

The Philadelphia Inquirer (17 July 2011, p. A3) took a look at the 2011 Q2 money in the Philadelphia area. (The counties above from PA and NJ.) Overall, Obama collected $ 227,190 and Romney collected $ 204,000. An additional $ 125,000 was taken in, in descending order by Santorum (PA only, he didn't get a dime in south Jersey), Paul, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Cain, Bachman and Johnson. The split here is 53%/47%, Obama to Romney. That's a little concerning. 

Also of concern is the money collected in the top ten zip codes. The data is arranged from most to least money, and identical zip codes are highlighted. All cities/town in Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted.


If you do the math, you'll find out that Romney collected $ 117,150 and Obama collected $ 85,193. Now admittedly, Obama tends to raise money from smaller donors, while Romney collects from larger donors. Thus, it's very likely that more humans (and ergo voters) donated to Obama than Romney. Further, it's early and the economy is in a completely different solar system than it was in 2007. But there are these two things…

The two most concerning zips to me are 19103 and 19087. 19103 (map) is part of Center City, and there is a concentration of über rich there, which can account for the relatively large Mittens draw. But it's also a very young area, with the largest proportion of residents being between 25 and 30 years old. (Source) Like I said, concerning.

And then there's Wayne. Zip code 19087 has an interesting history. It, along with zip code 19335 had their geographic areas defined well BEFORE zip codes were designated in the 1960's, by two very enterprising Postmasters. It used to be that the Postmasters were paid based on how many people received mail.  These guys took HUGE land areas, back when properties were large, even though the population wasn't there. Currently, 19087 is in three counties (Chester, Delaware and Montgomery). It's rich. It's educated. Data here. Most of all, though, it was an Obama stronghold in 2008. Again, like I said, concerning. 

More after the jump.

I live in 19087. And I know what the deal is here. For a candidate to win a precinct, or a zip code, a county or a state takes one of two things: a hugely strong, well-organized, on-message, well-funded candidate organization or an incredibly well-run, lock-step local party organization (think political machine). A combination of the two is optimal, but incredibly rare. 

In 2008, the Obama campaign officially arrived to our area on 1 April. Prior to that, Steering Committees had been put into place, including fund raising arms, outreach had been accomplished to online Obama support groups, and virtually no formal contact had been made with the local Democratic organizations, except to certain individuals who spanned both the Steering, etc., committees and the local organizations. 

The first full week, locations were operational and hundred of pairs of boots were on the ground, calling, fund-raising, holding voter drives, door knocking, lit dropping. This was, you may remember, for a primary. It became more intense after the primary: no one left, more paid interns were dropped on the area. 

The local organizations across the counties were split between Obama and Clinton, but most fell in line after the primary. However, the canvass, phone bank, fundraising and all other aspect's organization and leadership came exclusively from the campaign. This was a problem for the primary in Philadelphia as the Obama campaign refused to work in concert with the machine, which held down Obama's numbers in the city. The mistake was not repeated in the general.

OFA is still here: they have some events, do some phone banking and fund raising. Their numbers are far below what they were in 2008. And support, as shown by polls, fundraising totals, and general conversation is well below the last campaign. A lot of people who worked, and worked HARD in 2008, won't be doing it again. Obama cannot win Pennsylvania without winning Philadelphia and running up huge numbers in the surrounding counties. This is more important this year given the decreased population in southwest Pennsylvania. He cannot win Delaware nor Chester Counties without their parts of zip 19087. (He can still win Montco without 19087.) 

Q2 fundraising, and the current polling data should be a wake-up call for the campaign. While Pennsylvania has gone blue for the last five presidential elections, the 2010 elections were a rout: we lost the Assembly, Senate, Governor's Mansion, a Senate seat, and four House seats. All that, and current statewide Democratic registration is 50.8%. (Since you want to know, its 37% GOP, with the rest minor parties or unaligned.) 

The local Democratic organizations will not be of much help. They are fractured: disheartened by 2009 and 2010, split by a very ugly Democratic Congressional primary in 2010, underfunded, and without a functional GOTV program. This means that OFA has to hit here hard, and start culling support if Pennsylvania is to stay blue for the 6th presidential election in a row. 

Will this happen? It's uncertain, and the is a microcosm of what could conceivably cost Obama the 2012 election. Sure, there's a lot of time, and Mittens may well not be the candidate. That would be good for Obama as he polls much better against all the other current characters. But no matter who the Republican is, Obama still needs to get his people out, ground up, as worked in 2008. To win here, Obama needs people like me. I gave money, collected money, ran voter drives, ran a call center, canvassed, fielded canvassers, housed an intern, blogged, and above all, got my people out. From March to the election, I conservatively put 30 hours a week into Obama's campaign. Obama has about 8 months to win me over: I'm hoping…


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