Republicans make ma­jor push to take Penn­syl­va­nia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Both pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and their su­per PAC al­lies are now run­ning tele­vi­sion ads in Penn­syl­va­nia, with Republicans mak­ing a late push to try to swing the state their way, and Democrats mov­ing to block them.

It’s a fa­mil­iar sce­nario that’s played out in ev­ery elec­tion since 1992, where the Key­stone State has been the GOP’s Sisy­phus — tan­ta­liz­ing its pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates each time, but al­ways slip­ping out of reach.

“Doable, but a pretty steep climb,” G. Terry Madonna, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics and Pub­lic Af­fairs at Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege, said in eval­u­at­ing Republicans’ chances to push the rock to the top of the hill this year.

The Obama cam­paign has de­ployed Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den to the state to cam­paign, and said it would run ads to counter Mr. Rom­ney, but laughed off the GOP’s ef­forts.

“They are not close in Penn­syl­va­nia. We are go­ing to win Penn­syl­va­nia,” cam­paign man­ager Jim Messina told re­porters on Mon­day. “But we aren’t tak­ing any­thing for granted, and that’s what good cam­paigns do.”

Republicans have spot­ted big op­por­tu­ni­ties late in cam­paigns be­fore. In 2004, they de­ployed Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney to Hawaii af­ter a poll showed then-Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush might be com­pet­i­tive. And in 2008 Sen. John McCain tried to put Penn­syl­va­nia in play.

But Republicans said there is a real op­por­tu­nity this year to win in Penn­syl­va­nia and some other states Mr. Obama claimed in 2008.

“I think what you’re see­ing in Penn­syl­va­nia is a re­flec­tion of a grow­ing na­tional trend of mo­men­tum strongly flow­ing to Mitt Rom­ney and the Rom­neyRyan ticket,” said Char­lie Gerow, a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant in the state and CEO of Quan­tum Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “That’s it in a nut­shell.”

With 20 elec­toral votes, it’s the sec­ond-big­gest prize on the up-for-grabs board, be­hind Florida’s 29 and ahead of Ohio’s 18.

Mr. Gerow also said while many states have big early-vot­ing and ab­sen­tee pro­grams, in Penn­syl­va­nia 96 or 97 per­cent of vot­ers will go to the polls on Elec­tion Day, mean­ing money can be spent late and still have an im­pact.

Republicans say it’s a telling sign that Mr. Rom­ney has put Mr. Obama on the de­fen­sive in Penn­syl­va­nia, Min­nesota, Wis­con­sin and Michi­gan — all states the in­cum­bent won hand­ily in 2008.

By con­trast, Mr. Obama has not made a ma­jor play for any of the states he lost in 2008. Then again, his huge mar­gin in the Elec­toral Col­lege last time left him with plenty of mar­gin for er­ror.

And with a week to go, the pres­i­dent re­tained ad­van­tages in the polls in each of those states, ac­cord­ing to the Real Clear Pol­i­tics av­er­age of polls: 2.3 per­cent­age points in Wis­con­sin, 4 points in Michi­gan, 4.7 points in Penn­syl­va­nia and 5.3 points in Min­nesota.

Rom­ney cam­paign po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor Rich Bee­son re­leased a memo Oct. 30 ar­gu­ing that Penn­syl­va­nia is the ob­vi­ous tar­get this year. He said the western part of the state is more con­ser­va­tive, and he said Mr. Rom­ney can be more com­pet­i­tive in the vote-rich Philadel­phia sub­urbs in a way no Repub­li­can has been since 1988.

Still, the GOP’s ef­forts are late in the cy­cle com­pared with pre­vi­ous years, sug­gest­ing they could be a feint, or could just be over­flow money with the ad­ver­tis­ing air time in the real bat­tle­ground states al­ready sat­u­rated.

Mr. Madonna said in the fi­nal months of the 2008 cam­paign the can­di­dates spent $29 mil­lion on com­mer­cials, and ei­ther the pres­i­den­tial or vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees had made myr­iad vis­its.

This year there have been just two vis­its by the vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates since La­bor Day, and un­til last week no money had been spent. And Mr. Madonna said Mr. Obama has led in ev­ery poll in the state since the win­ter.

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