It’s now perfectly clear that it was a fool’s errand for McCain to place all of his electoral hopes on winning the keystone state. Obama cleaned up last night with more than 10 percent of the vote, the largest margin of victory by a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater in 1964. Much of that margin came from the suburbs around Philadelphia, which have been trending Democratic as an influx of minorities and young professionals from the eastern corridor shifts the region’s demographics. Obama’s victory is a tribute to the foresight of his campaign and the other Democrats who pushed hard to register new voters during the primary. It might not have paid off immediately--Hillary Clinton still won the primary pretty handily--but it ensured that her argument that Obama couldn’t win big states did not become prophetic. By the time Election Day came, the number of new Democrats had risen to 474,000, and the party outnumbered Republicans in the state by nearly 1.2 million.
In all, it was a good night for Pennsylvania Democrats. John Murtha won, and even Paul Kanjorski, whom Roll Call called the “most vulnerable House Democrat in the country” the day before the election, managed to hang on to his seat. (His opponent, anti-immigration gadfly Lou Barletta, promised to continue his fight against our illegal intruders and not go “quietly into the dark.”) In my home district, Kathy Dahlkemper defeated 14-year Republican incumbent Phil English for his seat in the House, ending a quarter century of Republican representation in the northwest corner of the state. Dahlkemper, like Kanjorski and Murtha, ran as a social moderate, promising an alternative to the entrenched English—not exactly evidence of an ideological shift in the state, but a winning strategy for the party’s hopefuls in the last two election cycles.