Eight is Enough for Penn. Voters

I’m not one to be particularly intrigued by political trends, but this one is hard to pass up. Democrats and Republicans have swapped control of the governor’s office in Pennsylvania every eight years since 1954. That’s 56 years — 14 elections — with a number of other interesting circumstances.

  • Only one of those times did voters choose a governor who was of the same political party as the president
  • According to the Stateline.org story with the details, the political landscape is often described as “Pennsyltucky”: the urban areas of Pittsburgh in the West and Philadelphia in the East, with the equivalent of rural Kentucky in the vast, sparsely populated middle
  • The late primary in 2008 made Pennsylvania (like Indiana) a major player in the Obama-Clinton primary battle. The result has been a 1.2 million advantage for Democrats in registered voters
  • Philadelphia’s dominance, with nearly 80% of registered voters declaring themselves Democrats and the suburbs turning more and more that way

A few excerpts below and the full story here. This will be one to watch in November.

The “8-year cycle,” as it is known from political science classes to the Capitol press room, has spanned 14 gubernatorial elections. It prevailed even in the days when Pennsylvania governors were limited to a single four-year term, rather than two four-year terms, as they are today. Two political analysts recently calculated the odds of the cycle simply being a fluke at longer than 5,000 to 1.

“The body politic likes balance,” says Tom Corbett, who has good reason to approve of Pennsylvania’s regular switches in political thinking. Corbett is the state attorney general, he is the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination and — if 2010 turns out the way the last 56 years have gone — he will be the next governor to take the oath of office in Harrisburg.

The 2010 gubernatorial election will be a test of whether anti-Washington and anti-Harrisburg sentiment can overcome what has been a steadily rising Democratic tide in recent years, particularly in the heavily populated suburbs of Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city.

If this year comes down to turnout, no region will be more important than the suburbs of southeast Pennsylvania that ring Philadelphia. They vaulted Ed Rendell into the governor’s office eight years ago, ensured his re-election four years later and have taken on an outsized role in the state’s political calculus.