Mitt Romney plans Pennsylvania ad blitz. Can he turn state red?
Pennsylvania is one of the blue states where the Romney team says momentum has changed the campaign calculus. But other factors might be behind the decision to ramp up ads there, too.
What happens when political momentum collides head-on with cold, hard polling data?Skip to next paragraph
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The answer could come Nov. 6 in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, Mitt Romney added it to its list of “target states” for the last week of the campaign, meaning he will advertise in the commonwealth on Election Day and the day prior after largely ignoring the state for months. Groups allied with Romney will spend another $3 million on ads in Pennsylvania, as well. The reason for the switch? The Romney campaign is surging, operatives say.
The Obama campaign, however, dismisses Mr. Romney’s “Big Mo” argument with a few facts: The president has led virtually every poll this election cycle, his party holds a sizable advantage in registered voters, and the Keystone State that hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
Writ large, this argument goes beyond Pennsylvania: In states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Democrats argue that the polls are on their side, while Republicans counter that they are coming on strong when it counts. In North Carolina, the sides are reversed.
Clearly, Romney would love to win any of the states that polls have presented as blue to the core – and next week’s election could reveal how far momentum can go toward flipping polls in the latest stages of a campaign. But Romney’s Pennsylvania gambit could also represent an attempt to force Mr. Obama to play defense in a state he had hoped to take for granted.
In doing so, Romney hopes not only to move the polls in those states, but to pull Democratic resources from Ohio, Virginia, and other battleground states that Romney seemingly needs to win. Indeed, the Obama camp announced Tuesday that it would counter the $3 million spent by Romney's allies in Pennsylvania.
Rich Beeson, the Romney campaign’s political director, spoke of offense and defense in a memo released Tuesday afternoon. “This expansion of the electoral map demonstrates that Governor Romney’s momentum has jumped containment from the usual target states and has spread to deeper blue states that Chicago never anticipated defending,” he wrote.
Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes have long been a dream for the GOP. Sen. John McCain had grand designs for winning in 2008 – and lost by 10 points. In his first term, President George W. Bush visited the state 44 times and still lost to Sen. John Kerry in 2004.
This year, state polls have given Obama a steady mid-single digit advantage over Romney since the beginning of October. The president maintains an average lead of 5 points in the most recent quartet of polls. In fact, Romney has not led a single poll in the Keystone State since February – and has led only three of 56 polls taken in 2012.