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Credit: Alex Graves , Alex Graves

As the election draws near, it looks as if Pennsylvania might be the state that decides who will be our next president.

According to political science professor Dan Hopkins, Pennsylvania's unique demographics will help the state vote for the presidential victor. 

“Pennsylvania is one of the single most important states in the election,” he said. “The reason for that is that Pennsylvania looks a lot like the country as a whole.”

This isn’t the first time that Pennsylvania has been a major player in the election, either. In fact, the state may have decided the outcome of the 2012 race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Hopkins said.

And the state is an equally valuable prize for watchers of the United States Senate, where the Republicans currently have a majority.

Wharton sophomore and Penn College Republicans Chief of Staff Owen O’Hare isn’t just focused on the presidential election. He believes Pennsylvania will be an important state on the congressional side as well.

“The race between Toomey and McGinty is pretty big,” he said. “If [Toomey] loses this race then that would probably tip control of the Senate to the Democrats, and the Republicans would lose one of the more moderate voices in the party.”

Although the Penn College Republicans have not been campaigning for Trump — O’Hare has even publicly endorsed Clinton — they have done work advocating for the reelection of Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Despite Pennsylvania’s status as a swing state, however, Hopkins does not believe that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has much of a chance of winning in the state. While he may be popular among more rural voters, Trump is not likely to gain the votes he needs in those regions of the state.

“At this point, Donald Trump is going to have a very, very hard time winning Pennsylvania,” Hopkins explained. “If Donald Trump wanted to compete in the state, he would need to...see a real surge of voter interest in the western parts of the state.”

Hopkins said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has a strong enough level of support in the Philadelphia suburbs to prevent Trump’s winning the state.

“Even if Hillary Clinton doesn’t particularly energize people in the city of Philadelphia, and even if she loses voters in some of the more rural parts of the state,” he said, “her likely victory in the suburbs is going to be so large that it’s quite a tall order to imagine her losing the state.”

College sophomore and Penn for Hillary Communications Director Jack Weisman agreed on the importance of Pennsylvania for Clinton’s chances.

“Pennsylvania is the state that’s going to decide the election,” he said.

Unlike Hopkins, however, Weisman is less certain that Clinton can so easily win the state.

“Even though [Pennsylvania] has voted Democratic a lot recently, in a presidential election it’s a swing state,” he said. “It’s been trending more Republican in the last few election cycles.” He is right: Certain suburban areas west of Harrisburg have trended red in recent cycles.

Weisman believes that the electoral situation of the state is still competitive enough to warrant more campaigning there by Clinton.

“Our big focus is mobilizing voters here,” he said. “The difference between winning and losing is how many voters you can turn out. Hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot of us in the next couple of weeks.”

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