PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With the announcement that Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Marco Rubio are running for president, along with previously announced Republicans Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and many others yet to announce, Pennsylvania is likely to be front and center in the sweepstakes.

“I’m not sure if our polling machines have enough slots for all the Republicans running right now. Last I saw, 22 possibles,” Doug Saltzman, a local political analyst, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.

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After eight years of a Democrat in the White house, Republicans are salivating at the notion that 2016 is their year.

But which Republican candidate?

“Pennsylvanians have a streak of electing Republicans that are capable of governing. They are not looking for firebrands. They are looking for people who can solve kitchen table issues,” noted Mike Devanney, a political analyst.

So picking the right Republican nominee next spring is key to how competitive Pennsylvania will be in the general election.

“Much of that is going to be dependent on who the Republican candidate is,” note Prof. Jerry Shuster of the University of Pittsburgh.

Normally, Pennsylvania’s presidential primary in April is so late in the game that the state’s Republicans and Democrats don’t play a role in picking their party’s nominee.

But that could be different in 2016, at least for the Republicans where there is really no clear front-runner.

“There are more close to being viable Republican candidates seeking the nomination this time — more national figures seeking the nomination,” said Prof. Joseph Sabino Mistick of Duquesne University. “This may turn out to be a real horse race that lasts longer.”

And that’s good news for Pennsylvania Republicans who may help pick a winning nominee.

“I think the Republican primary — what is so great about this is that it’s as wide open as it’s ever been,” noted Devanney. “And, as a result of that, we may have a very protracted process.”

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And during the general election, Pennsylvania always seems to be a battle ground state even though we have a million more Democrats than Republicans.

“If you look at the state offices by and large, the vast majority of them are Republican, typically, and the Democrats, even though they have the majority in terms of registration in the state, people do not vote that way,” observed Shuster.

What gives Republicans hope at winning Pennsylvania in 2016 are the kind of Democrats in this part of the state.

“Now the real swing bell weather voters are conservative Democrats out here in southwestern Pennsylvania, registered Democrats who have been voting for Republican candidates on both statewide offices and the presidential race,” said Devanney.

Although Republican presidential candidates have not carried Pennsylvania since 1988, it’s hard to imagine the Republicans giving up on Pennsylvania.

Only two Republican presidents have ever won the White House without this state, Richard Nixon in 1968 and George W. Bush in 2000.

The key for a Republican win is also a nominee who excites the Republican base, which John McCain and Mitt Romney failed to do.

“Five million fewer voters, Republican voters, showed up to vote,” said Saltzman. “If it’s not someone who can energize the base and get the Republicans excited, Pennsylvania may not be a player.”

But some say by appearing to be anti-everything Republicans have hurt themselves, especially against Hillary Clinton who could be the first woman president.

“You can’t really continue to insult people, reject people, stiff arm them, make their lives more difficult and then ask them to vote for you,” said Mistick.

“So on some of these big national issues, they [the Republican Party candidates] are headed in the wrong direction. They’re exclusive, not inclusive. She [Hillary Clinton] will run an inclusive campaign and that will make the difference.”

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