The level of voter registration in the county was lower than in the last presidential election, with the number of registered voters slipping from 319,405 in 1984, to 306,106 this year.
The smaller margin may also have been a result of a larger-than-usual portion of the Greek voters in some areas of the county going for Dukakis, who shares their ethnic heritage. In the county, four times as many Greek- Americans are registered Republicans as are registered Democrats.
For example, Dukakis was able to do well against his Republican opponent in some of the areas that border Philadelphia, winning in Yeadon and tying Bush in Millbourne Borough. There are significant numbers of voters of Greek ancestry in both municipalities.
There was also evidence of ticket-splitting that benefited Dukakis. In Upper Darby, where Dukakis lost by 9,498 votes, he won the votes of 2,756 people who voted for incumbent Republican Congressman Curt Weldon over Democratic challenger David Landau.
In Swarthmore, where Dukakis graduated from college in 1955, he won by 972 votes, and in Chester, a Democratic stronghold in presidential elections, Dukakis won by 3,149.
Throughout most of the county, however, Republicans were triumphant.
Charles P. Sexton Jr., county Republican boss, called Dukakis "yesterday's news." Sexton said he would keep a campaign promise to present Bush with one of his champion bloodhounds as a victory gift. The name of the dog that Bush will acquire is not a strange one in Washington: Nixon.
Just before 10 p.m. Tuesday, as the numbers began to pile up in favor of the other side, Delaware County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Dianne Merlino
cut through the obvious disappointment and took aim at one of the only pieces of good news that seemed to be emerging from the dismal results of the evening - that Dukakis was ahead by a small margin in Pennsylvania.
"I'm glad that we are going to be able to print those bumper stickers again; the ones that say, 'Don't blame Pennsylvania,' " Merlino said.
In the end, not even that small hope would hold up for the Democrats.
In winning Pennsylvania by a nose, Bush could give a lot of credit to Republican Delaware County, where GOP officials were predicting a win for Bush by a 45,000-vote margin. With 27 of the 29 municipalities in Delaware County reporting, Bush was leading Dukakis by more than 40,000 votes - 121,251 for Bush to 80,368 for Dukakis.
The Democrats were thinking about printing bumper stickers, and the networks were saying that the state was too close to call. But county Republican leader Thomas Judge, who also served as Bush's campaign chairman in Pennsylvania, was saying that if Delaware County could deliver as it had in the past, Bush would win Pennsylvania, denying the Democrats even that small consolation.
"If we are able to get that 45,000-vote plurality, we would win the state," Judge said. Delaware County would make the difference, Judge clearly believed.
When all the Delaware County votes were in, Bush had beaten Dukakis by 51,415 votes in the county, and with 99 percent of the precincts reporting statewide, he was leading Dukakis by 108,000 votes.
Democrat Rich Shafto, 40, of Upper Providence, stood taking in the bad news as the numbers suggested a large Republican victory in the county and the nation. And he, too, looked for good news in all the bad.
"It is not as bad as the last two," he said of the Democrats' presidential loss.