Romney's Pennsylvania chase: State's Republicans trying hard to believe

Pennsylvania Republicans hope against hope that Mitt Romney, who made a late play for their state, can pull off an upset win there. But they acknowledge it's hard to get the math to add up.

Brian Snyder/REUTERS
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greets workers at a campaign call center during the US presidential election in Green Tree, Pennsylvania November 6, 2012.

Mitt Romney's eleventh-hour run at Pennsylvania, long thought to be in President Obama's column, has raised hopes among the state's rank-and-file Republicans that their state could, for the first time since 1988, vote to put a Republican in the Oval Office.

It's what their hearts are longing for, but what their minds are struggling to believe could come to pass.

With polls in the Keystone State closing at 8 p.m., Republicans there know the state has more than 1 million more Democratic voters than GOP voters – and an unremarkable day of voting thus far challenges their ability to make the electoral math go their way.

“My brain tells me the math doesn’t add up,” says Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist with more than 30 years of experience in the state. “But my gut tells me that [Mr. Romney will win].”

Speaking for conservatives' hearts are people like Ana Puig, a Pennsylvania field coordinator for the fiscally conservative group FreedomWorks. Ms. Puig, reached by phone, is working the polls in Bucks County, Pa., perhaps the premier “collar county” of Philadelphia that state experts believe could help swing the election into Romney’s camp.

“If this morning was an indication, we’re really good to go,” Puig says, noting that turnout isn’t booming but isn’t limping in, either. 

She’s been talking to voters all day and feels as if Republicans are doing well at the two precincts she’s visited.

Mr. Gerow emphasizes that Romney could very well win Pennsylvania – the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows Mr. Obama with roughly a four percentage point lead.

Yet “the math, really, wasn’t always there because [Romney] didn’t start early enough here,” Gerow says. “You had to overcome a marathon run [by the Obama campaign] with a five-day sprint. That’s tough to do.”

Democrats have long been skeptical of Romney's prowess in the state.

"If it was out of reach a week ago, nothing in that period would cause things to be appreciably different" on Election Day, says T.J. Rooney, former head of the state's Democratic Party, in a phone interview.

Intellectual skepticism isn’t the rule among the Pennsylvania GOP by any stretch.

Chris Nicholas, a veteran GOP strategist in the state, says he believes Romney has a 60 percent chance to take Pennsylvania.

“Obama hasn’t had enough time to really go after [Romney] here,” Mr. Nicholas says. “I think the turnout matrix is favoring the Republicans. That’s what I felt when the day started. We’ll see if unfolding events support that.”

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