Toomey may be seeing something about the state that Trump doesn’t: Pennsylvania is also a microcosm of the demographic change that’s been happening all over the country. Outside of the big cities, Pennsylvania is theoretically Trump country, with large white, working-class populations. Out of its 18 U.S. congressional districts in the state, only four are represented by Democrats. (A fifth Democratic representative, Chaka Fattah, was convicted of corruption charges in June and resigned from his seat.)
But where the state is really growing—and where national elections are decided—is in and north of Philadelphia. “The growth of the eastern part of the state … has made it more racially diverse,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “Those are areas that have tended to become more Democratic.” The state is roughly 83 percent white, 12 percent black, and 7 percent Latino, according to the U.S. Census. But places like Allentown, Lancaster, and Reading have seen huge influxes of Puerto Ricans in recent years—as of 2010, Philadelphia County had the fifth-largest population of Puerto Ricans in the country. Many of the counties that have seen the most demographic change over the last decade and a half are the same counties that had the closet margins in the 2012 presidential race.
That explains why Clinton is spending her last night on the campaign trail in Philadelphia: High turn-out there, and in the “collar counties” surrounding it, can make or break an election. “Focusing on a lot of those collar counties is going to be important,” said Frey. It’s a way of “making up for everything she might lose with a bigger turn-out of white-collar, working-class men” elsewhere in the state, he said, “or maybe a somewhat lesser turn-out or enthusiasm among African Americans” compared to 2008 and 2012.
Perhaps because the stakes are so high, Pennsylvania has become one epicenter of a nationwide fight over voter intimidation and fraud, largely focused on voters of color. “The only way we can lose, in my opinion—I really mean this—in Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on,” Trump told an Altoona crowd in August. He encouraged his supporters to “look and watch other polling places, and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine.” In October, he claimed voter fraud is “all too common,” including in places like Philadelphia.
During the last week, the parties have taken this fight to the courts. First, Republicans attempted to expand the rules around poll-watching: They asked a judge for an injunction against the Pennsylvania law that prevents residents from monitoring polls outside their own county. They lost.
Then a week ago, the state’s Democratic Party filed a suit of its own against Donald Trump, the state GOP, and Roger J. Stone Jr., the head of a voter-fraud-related super PAC, for allegedly recruiting unauthorized poll watchers to conduct “ballot security” efforts throughout the state. A hearing is scheduled for Monday morning.