Romney campaign says it could take Pennsylvania. Hail Mary pass?

The Romney campaign says Pennsylvania is very much in play despite heavily Democratic voter registration and most polls showing Obama ahead. Romney made a last-minute visit Sunday.

By , Staff writer

In the last two days of the presidential campaign, Pennsylvania has become a key battleground state – at least if you listen to the Romney campaign.

The state is very much in play, they say, despite being heavily Democratic in voter registration, and despite most polls showing Barack Obama ahead there. No matter that Mr. Obama beat John McCain by more than 10 points in 2008, it’s argued, Pennsylvania can be won as the electoral path to victory shifts (or at least appears to shift in a very close race) while both campaigns adjust their last-minute rallies and TV ads.

"The map has expanded," Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie said on ABC's "This Week" program. "We have been able to expand into Pennsylvania while fully funding and staying current with everything we need to be doing in Florida and Virginia and Ohio."

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On “Fox News Sunday,” Romney campaign manager Rich Beeson asserted that the electoral map “is expanding drastically in our favor.”

“Drastically” may be putting it a bit strongly, but there could be a path to Mitt Romney’s winning there.

“Republicans can and do thrive there,” blogs Joshua Green, Bloomberg Businessweek's Washington correspondent. “Romney’s runner-up for the GOP nomination, Rick Santorum, was a two-term Pennsylvania senator, and the governor, Tom Corbett, is also a Republican.”

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But winning the presidency is another matter; the GOP candidate hasn’t done so in the Keystone State since 1988.

A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review poll conducted by Susquehanna Polling & Research, which surveyed 800 likely Pennsylvania voters last week, has the race there dead-even at 47 percent each.

But that seems to be an outlier compared with other recent polls. The Real Clear Politics polling average in Pennsylvania has Obama ahead by nearly four points.

“Susquehanna is the only pollster to have shown Mr. Romney ahead in Pennsylvania at any point in the race, as they did on one occasion in February and another in October (Romney led by four points in their previous poll of the state),” writes New York Times polling statistician Nate Silver. “Perhaps they will be proven right, but it is usually a bad bet to bank on the one poll rather than the many.”

Bloomberg Businessweek's Mr. Green speculates on why Romney is making a late play for Pennsylvania: “It’s a Midwestern state. He hasn’t been pummeled by ads there. And Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes would make up for Ohio’s 18 that Romney needs but appears on track to lose.”

Democrats see Romney’s tactical surge into Pennsylvania as “a desperate ploy at the end of a campaign," as David Plouffe, a top adviser to Obama's campaign, said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

Pointing out that Romney would have to win 2 out of 3 independents to pick up Pennsylvania, Plouffe said, "He's not going to do that anywhere, much less Pennsylvania."

Romney’s Sunday schedule included a stop in suburban Bucks County, and the campaign launched new TV ads in the state over the weekend – to which the Obama campaign had to respond with ads of its own. Bill Clinton will be back there Monday on Obama’s behalf.

“Pennsylvania is an uphill climb for the GOP ticket, but it’s possible,” writes Charles Mahtesian, Politico.com’s national politics editor. “Not without a foothold in the Philadelphia suburbs, though.”

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