That's not good news for Democrats in a state with 21 Electoral College votes the party might need this fall. Rendell, a former national Democratic Party chairman, says Democrats won't get the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency without winning at least three of four big swing states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida.
In the past two presidential elections, President Bush won Ohio and Florida — with the Buckeye State making the difference in 2004 and Florida playing the crucial role in 2000.
"John McCain does not have to win Pennsylvania, but I think he can come close," Casey says. "We have to win it."
Democrats see surge in voters
Enthusiasm in Pennsylvania appears to be with Democrats: The party enjoyed a huge voter-registration surge this spring, doubling its edge over Republicans to more than 1 million votes.
Even so, Rendell is uneasy about a state where Republicans control the state Senate and the senior U.S. senator — the longest serving in state history — is Arlen Specter, a Republican with an independent streak, not unlike McCain.
"He's the best candidate (Republicans) could have nominated for Pennsylvania," Rendell says about McCain, whose experience as a former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war should play well. Veterans make up more than 11% of the adult population and the state consistently ranks among the top three in National Guard enrollments.
Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Robert Gleason calls Clinton "too liberal" for the state and says Obama can't win after his "dissing of the electorate" here. Gleason says his goal is to woo the "Reagan Democrats" who gave the GOP big wins here during the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was in the White House.
"We're going to be ready in the fall," Gleason says. History suggests that Clinton and Obama will face challenges in Pennsylvania as the Democratic nominee.
No woman or African-American has been elected governor or U.S. senator in the state, and blacks and women are underrepresented in other offices. More than half the state's voting-age population is made up of women; blacks make up 10.4% of the population.
Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat and Obama supporter, is the only black member of Pennsylvania's 21-member congressional delegation, and the fourth African-American to represent the state in Congress.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz, another Philadelphia Democrat and a Clinton supporter, is the only woman among the state's 19 House members. She is the sixth woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.
"We have a great heritage. America was started here, but sometimes we're a little too steeped in our tradition," Tom McMahon, the mayor of Reading, says of Pennsylvania's reluctance to diversify its political leadership.
McMahon says he got some angry calls when he announced his endorsement of Obama: "I think there's a bit of racism below the surface."
Making a statement
For many blacks and women here, Pennsylvania's Democratic primary isn't about choosing the candidate most likely to win in November.
It's about making a statement in a state where they have struggled for political visibility. Louise Williams, Lancaster's City Council president, admits that her personal experience is playing a key role in determining her vote.