A Philadelphian Rests His Hopes on Steelers Country

During World War II, the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers came together to form the Pennsylvania Steagles. It was about the last time the cities united on anything.
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Despite both being in the same state, Philly and Pittsburgh have always been cultural and political rivals. Philly is a Metroliner city founded by English aristocrats that has historically produced politicians like Arlen Specter, while Pittsburgh is a frontier city founded by Scots-Irish scrapers that has historically produced pols like John Murtha.

But if Philly-area native Joe Sestak wants to close the gap against Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania Senate race, he's going to have to run up the score in the western part of the state. The Pennsylvania map is famously a "T," with blue counties in the southwest and southeast and red "Pennsyltucky" taking up the middle.

The red "T" isn't going to vote for anyone with a "D" next to his or her name in 2010, and Philly is going to go deep blue if the White House has anything to say about it. But metro Pittsburgh in the southwest is part of that classic Jacksonian Belt that is culturally conservative, historically Democratic, and recently Republican.

Barone wrote about the area's Democratic roots in 2008:

Metro Pittsburgh in 1988 had just gone through a decade of massive losses of steel industry and related jobs; it was one of the most anti-Reagan metro areas in 1984 and one of the most anti-Bush metro areas in 1988. If northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania had been a separate state in 1984, it would have cast its electoral votes for Walter Mondale, and by a bigger percentage margin than Mondale won in his home state of Minnesota.

But metro Pittsburgh also was home to the only six Pennsylvania counties (out of a total of 76) that went from blue to red in 2008. In fact, only one congressional district in America voted for John Kerry and John McCain, and that was Pennsylvania's 12th.

When John Murtha passed away, I was sure the Republicans would win this seat, but the Democrats retained it in a special election. If Sestak wants to win the state, he's going to have to convince the highly-unionized, anti-free trade voters of the 12th that Toomey is not one of them -- something Obama couldn't do.

Below is the map for the only Kerry-McCain district, broken down byy precincts (thanks to Swing State Project):

Pennsylvania's 12th District in 2008