Even though Pennsylvania voters have picked Democrats in every presidential election since George H. W. Bush won the state in 1988 — six straight — Donald Trump Jr. either has not noticed or doesn’t care.
“We’re going to win it,” he said Tuesday morning. “We’re going to win it big.”
Originally announced anonymously as a “special guest,” Trump Jr. surprised about 200 attendees at the Pennsylvania delegation’s breakfast. Less than five minutes after taking the stage, he was on his way out the door, declining to pose for pictures or do interviews.
Coming just one day after U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan was featured as the first breakfast’s keynote speaker, Trump Jr.’s appearance further legitimizes assertions by party members that Pennsylvania is not only in play this year but also could tip the election to GOP nominee Donald Trump.
“My impression is this (year) is a much larger focus on Pennsylvania than we’ve had for a very long time,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township. “Pennsylvania is in play.”
The other quite-noticeable perk for Pennsylvania this cycle — the delegation’s seating in the arena is directly off the front of the stage and should be plainly visible to television viewers.
In the 10 presidential elections since 1976, Pennsylvania has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate seven times, which would seem to suggest that winning the state would be an uphill battle for Republicans.
Four years ago, President Barack Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney 52 to 47 percent. The margin was much closer in Centre County, where Obama defeated Romney by only 175 votes — 34,176 to 34,001 — according to the county’s Board of Elections.
In the past 40 years, the largest win by a Democrat over a Republican in Pennsylvania was when Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole in 1996 by a margin of 50 to 39 percent.
The closest margin was 2 percent — Jimmy Carter’s win over President Gerald Ford in 1976.
The last Democrat to win White House without winning Pennsylvania was Harry Truman.
Matt Martell is a Penn State University journalism student covering the Republican National Convention for the Centre Daily Times.