Wildcard: Pennsylvania as a Battleground State

“Wait and see.”

It’s becoming an overwhelmingly popular phrase when describing the 2016 presidential election. The Keystone State plays an important role in the “wait and see” of presidential elections, serving as one of a few “battleground states.”

A “battleground state” is a state with many electoral votes that often changes party allegiance. While Pennsylvania has voted Democrat since 1992, it has the potential to change at any time. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes, which has decreased drastically in the past 50 years. In 1960, Pennsylvania was largely a red state, favoring Nixon over Kennedy, but key counties and areas gave Kennedy the edge by just 2 percent.

Dr. Steve Peterson, a professor of politics and public affairs at Penn State Harrisburg, describes Pennsylvania’s position, “It’s going to have an important role to play.”

Wealth and education are important factors behind who is turning out to vote. Since rural communities generally have less of both, there are less voters coming from rural communities. It’s important to note that while these are contributing factors, rural voters can be “mobilized” by hot-button issues and thus participate in the election process.

Peterson cites August 2016 Franklin & Marshall College polls that illustrate the contrast of rural, urban and suburban voters with the following figures: In urban and suburban areas, Clinton has 49 percent of the vote. In rural areas Trump has 59 percent of the vote.

Peterson calls the contrast “startling.”

The “T” is a region of the Commonwealth spanning from Erie to the New Jersey boarder and sweeping down through Harrisburg to the Mason-Dixon line. The “T” represents rural, conservative areas that lean Republican. On the right and left side of the state are the two Democratic strong holds, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. In his 19-year tenure as a resident of Pennsylvania, Peterson says the “T” has always been present. “The tendency has been for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to be “D” and the “T” to be “R.”

Despite issues with transparency, Franklin & Marshall polls still have Clinton as the front runner in Pennsylvania. The state has a deep history of choosing the Democratic candidate. Pennsylvania voted Republican until 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt ran with the Bull Moose Party. It returned to its Republican roots until the 1940s when the state started to alternate between red and blue, fairly regularly. Since then, Pennsylvania leans for the Democratic candidate, however it is a competitive lean, sometimes ending with candidates winning by single-digit percentage points.

While Peterson doesn’t see the Libertarian, or any other third-party candidate, winning the race, he does suggest that third-party choices will impact the number of votes to the two major-party candidates. Sometimes called “third-party spoilers,” Peterson compares the Libertarian and other third-party candidates to Ralph Nader in the 2000 election that led to a recount in Florida.

“It becomes an interesting wildcard in the election,” he says.

Republicans finding themselves at odds with Trump’s views are turning their attention to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who has even caught the attention of the Koch brothers. With the Libertarians getting so much attention in recent months, Peterson says, “Johnson has become someone who potentially can affect the outcome.”

Those choosing no affiliation or Independent don’t have much say as to who ends up on Pennsylvania’s ticket since Independents are barred from voting in the Pennsylvania primary elections. That said, nationally, Independents seem to be leaning toward Donald Trump.

Of the Bernie Sanders supporters, Peterson suggests they would lean toward Clinton, although not enthusiastically.

With the election two months out, a lot can change. One thing Peterson knows for sure as the election nears, “Pennsylvania becomes a classic battleground state.”

“I’m not going to bet who wins,” Peterson says.

Pennsylvania could yet again shake up the election or continue its presidential pattern.

Making A Presidential Move

Another election year is nearly in the bag, and if you’re candidate doesn’t win, it can feel like an unremitting four years. Whether it’s just to get away for a while, or maybe a more permanent venture, here are some countries to consider when making your escape.


Fleeing to “The Great White North” is a good option for individuals certain to return. Just a seven-hour drive and less than a three-hour flight for Pennsylvanians, Canada’s Southeast provinces are an enticing option. In Ontario sits the nation’s capital, Ottawa, and the most populous city, Toronto. Home to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto is a favorite among hockey fans. Ottawa is the most educated city in Canada with five universities and two colleges. This is great news for parents of young children and college-age kids. One thing to keep in mind, Canadian citizenship is not easily obtained. Canada requires that applicants reside in the country for six years prior to applying.

New Zealand

Long plane ride aside, expating to New Zealand could be a great experience. American citizens have an automatic 90-day visa. Consider it a “free trial” period. In addition to being spectacularly scenic, New Zealand is the fourth most peaceful country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI). The country is also English-speaking, so no language barriers to worry about there.


Ranked first overall among European countries, Iceland is the most peaceful nation in the world, according to the GPI 2016 results. Less than a decade ago, Iceland was experiencing economic upheaval as the global market laid claim to its assets. Today, the country is flourishing with successful social programs and a modest population of just 300,000. The “Land of Fire and Ice” calls itself a “free-speech haven,” creating legislation to protect journalists and provide Internet free of censorship. Like New Zealand, Iceland offers a 90-day visa to American citizens.


The second European country to make our list is the “Emerald Isle.” The country ranks 12th on the GPI, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t what brings Ireland to this list. Off the Western coast of Ireland is a small island called Inishturk. The island has 58 residents and is less than one square mile in area.  The island is rich in history and offers peace of mind and tranquility to visitors. Inishturk is a great destination for hikers and naturalists.  With it’s population continuing on a downward slope, Inishturk is offering Americans a safe haven. Their latest public-relations campaign states, “Make Inishturk great again.”

Costa Rica

Situated just above the equator, Costa Rica offers a tropical climate and an unending number of beaches. The average temperature in Costa Rica is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If that doesn’t sell it, Costa Rica is an adventurer’s paradise. Lush jungles and picturesque mountains provide stunning hiking trips. The cost of living is low in Costa Rica, and thus, an appealing option for many Americans. For those who wish to return or visit, Costa Rica is only a 10-hour flight from Pennsylvania. Americans are also given a 90-day visa to explore the country.