Washington — The politics of Pennsylvania translates into big trouble for Jesse Jackson's campaign. In a state with a small black population and a primary system that rewards organization, Gov. Michael Dukakis has a chance to win big in next Tuesday's Democratic contest. ``There is no contest, it's all over,'' says Rep. Peter Kostmayer of Pennsylvania, a Dukakis supporter. ``It ended when the polls closed in New York.''
Polling done last weekend shows Governor Dukakis with a three-to-one lead over the Rev. Mr. Jackson in the state. More important, Dukakis is expected to win handily in the delegate contest, since Pennsylvania's rules enable successful candidates to leverage popular votes into disproportionately large delegate totals.
``We just don't believe the numbers, they are way too high,'' says Dukakis state coordinator Dennis Orouca, not wanting to appear overconfident.
With Sen. Albert Gore Jr. no longer in the running, the race for the Democratic nomination has narrowed to only two candidates. Despite Jackson's growing appeal among whites, his electoral success is built largely on a black base. Analysts say this will hurt him in Pennsylvania, where less than 10 percent of the population is black.
Pennsylvania rules often enable candidates to win all the delegates within a given congressional district. Moreover, unless Jackson can win 15 percent (18) of the state's delegates, he cannot qualify for a share of the at-large delegates who are allocated according to a formula related to the delegates captured at the congressional-district level.
``It's a state that probably overrewards organization, and undercounts popular vote,'' says Ann Lewis, a Jackson adviser. ``It can be a very expensive state,'' she adds, referring to the five media markets in which a candidate needs to buy advertising time. Yet Kurt Richardson, Jackson's state coordinator, says, ``We intend to put up a good strong battle.''
Most of Jackson's black support will come from three heavily black congressional districts, one in Pittsburgh and two in Philadelphia. Jackson is expected to win all nine delegates in Philadelphia's 2nd Congressional District, where blacks comprise 76 percent of the population. The number of blacks in the other two districts is much lower, however, and unless many white voters support Jackson, his campaign is not expected to cross the 18-delegate threshold.
This is a blue-collar state, with a tradition of coal and steel industry union activity. Many of these traditional Democrats are leaving the party, however. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that the Democratic Party has lost 37 percent of its registered voters since the 1984 election.
``Pennsylvania Democrats are more conservative than the Democrats in New York,'' says Congressman Kostmayer. ``Pennsylvania is a more conservative state. It's closer to the Midwest than to the Atlantic Ocean.''
According to network surveys in 1984, only 5 percent of Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania are Jewish and only 15 percent are black. Even so, there is a strong labor and ethnic component, with half the voters being members of union households, and 50 percent of those surveyed were Catholic - largely with Polish and Slavic backgrounds.
When Pennsylvania voters enter the polling booths, they will in effect vote twice, once in a non-binding preference poll (often called a ``beauty contest''), and second in the actual election of delegates supporting their candidate within their congressional district. A total of 116 delegates are allocated this way, with 62 additional delegates to be allocated according to the party's state committee rules.