Democrats and the Obama campaign have been dismissing the last minute effort by Republicans to flip Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney as “desperation.” They point out that the state has not gone Republican for 20 years and that the Keystone State has proven to be something of a “white whale” for the GOP — a tantalizing target that both John McCain and George Bush in 2004 found to be a mirage.
But something is happening in Pennsylvania. Romney appeals to suburban Philadelphians and others in a way that Bush or McCain didn’t. Besides that, the state has been trending Republican for years. Michael Barone:
Everyone would have picked Obama two weeks ago. I think higher turnout in pro-coal Western Pennsylvania and higher Republican percentages in the Philadelphia suburbs could produce a surprise. The Romney team evidently thinks so too. Their investment in TV time is too expensive to be a mere feint, and, as this is written, Romney is planning a Sunday event in Bucks County outside Philly.
Barone thinks Romney can win Pennsylvania. And Jay Cost crunches the numbers, showing Romney’s effort to be more than a will-o-the-wisp:
Broad context: PA outside of Philly County has been trending red for 20 years. It has so far been checked by Dem turnout in Philly County, but Philly County’s population has been flat. So turnout increases in the county are from turnout machines/enthusiasm alone. At some point, that could breakdown.
(a) Total PA turnout is up 3% over 2008. Philly County comprises 11.5% of total PA electorate (similar to 2004, less than 2008).
(b) Romney wins non-Philly county 54-46. (Slightly better than Bush ’04, who won 52.5 to 47.5)
Obama MUST net 433k votes out of Philly County to win. In 2008 he netted 478k votes. In 2004 Kerry netted 410k votes. In 2000 Gore netted 350k votes.
Tweak the assumptions to lower Philly turnout, increase non-Philly turnout, increase Romney share of non-Philly. And Keystone State goes red.
Even the New York Times recognizes the Romney surge in the state:
Pennsylvania has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election for the last 20 years. Independent pollsters have called it the Republicans’ white whale. Indeed, polls show Mr. Obama ahead, albeit by a shrinking margin. And his senior political strategist, David Axelrod, even joked this week that he would shave off his mustache of 40 years if they lose here.
But there is a tangible sense — seen in Romney yard signs on the expansive lawns of homes in the well-heeled suburbs, and heard in the excited voices of Republican mothers who make phone calls to voters in their spare time — that the race is tilting toward Mr. Romney.
If ever there were a place where a last-ditch torrent of money could move the needle, this is it. For the last couple of months, there has been a void of presidential ads in Pennsylvania. So when Republican strategists looked for places where their money could go the furthest, they set their sights here, reasoning that a dollar spent in Erie or Altoona would have a greater impact than in a place like Las Vegas or Cleveland, where political commercials have clogged the airwaves.
Paul Ryan is visiting Pennsylvania today as well. And the ad money is pouring into the state. The Romney campaign has purchased about $2.0 million in ads to run through Tuesday while the RNC has dumped $2.5 million. Super Pacs have been busy, spending more than $4 million in this last week. All told, the ad buys add up to more than $10 million.
Can all of this attention “move the dial”? The GOP is disadvantaged by its get-out-the-vote operation which, compared to the union-funded juggernaut of the Democrats, leaves something to be desired. But enthusiasm will make up some of the difference and come election night, Barack Obama may be in for a rude surprise.