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PENNSYLVANIA. George H.W. Bush is the last Republican to win it; that was 1988. Senator McCain lost it to Senator Obama in 2008 by 10%. You may recall that Governor Romney called it September 28th telling a crowd he would win the state. About two weeks ago, a reputable in-state poll was showing Romney leading Obama in Pennsylvania 49% to 45%.
Governor Romney has directed significant resources this past week into Pennsylvania and the Obama camp is saying he is desperate. It never occurs to the Obaminions there might be a strategy involved (“strategy” is Romney’s second middle name). Romney obviously has known for months that 96% of the Pennsylvania electorate vote in person on election day making the state a perfect blitz state for the last week. What is it called when desperate people call others desperate? What was it? “Panic?”
Writing for the WSJ yesterday, Matthew Kaminski provides outstanding insight in support of what appears to be a brilliant strategy by the Romney team.
Pennsylvanians have no problem voting Republican. Out of 67 counties, 52 are in GOP hands. So are 12 of 19 congressional districts, both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion. Republican Pat Toomey won a Senate seat in 2010.
As party hacks know, the trouble for the GOP here is at the top of the ticket. The state last turned red in a presidential race 24 years ago for George H.W. Bush. His son made it a priority in 2004 and lost by 2.5%. Barack Obama’s 10-point win in 2008 was supposed to take it out of the swing column this year.
Yet one of the surprises of the past month is a quietly competitive race for Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. Since the Denver debate on Oct. 3, Mr. Obama’s lead has narrowed to 4.7%, according to the RealClearPolitics average of state polls.
If Pennsylvania stages a surprise next week, it’ll come out of suburban Philadelphia. The four so-called collar counties (Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery) were once moderate Republican bastions. In the past two decades, the suburbs have gone for Democratic presidential candidates. You can’t win without them. Bucks (pop. 626,854) is the bellwether: A mix of educated middle-class, rural and blue-collar communities, it votes both ways in local elections—and always for the presidential winner.
Republicans in the collar counties had little reason for enthusiasm before the first debate. The morning after Denver, the party office in Bucks was overrun with people looking for Romney-Ryan lawn signs. The Romney message strategy echoes that of Sen. Toomey and other successful GOP candidates here two years ago: Talk about jobs and debt, appeal to bipartisanship, and avoid the subjects of abortion and religion as much as possible.
As it happens, Mr. Romney is the first Northeasterner to get the Republican nod since the Connecticut native Bush 41 in 1988. He looks and sounds like Republicans whom Pennsylvanians have voted for in the past. Texas swagger and Sarah Palin didn’t play well in Bucks.
Then comes a series of queries about high gas prices, a tough job market and how to balance budgets. A local software provider and Fitzpatrick supporter standing next to me in the audience says: “There’s only one businessman I know of who is doing better” than four years ago “and he’s a bankruptcy lawyer.”
A visible difference from 2008 is the improvement in the Republican ground game. As in Ohio, the Romney campaign has been able to tap local evangelicals and tea-party activists and has built up a decent infrastructure with 24 offices and 60 staffers in the state.
Ed Rendell, the former Democratic governor, says in a telephone interview before the Romney TV buys were announced that any late ad push may backfire for Republicans. “It would remind people that there’s an election going on,” he says. Republicans “clearly hope Democratic turnout collapses.” The Obama campaign, calling the Romney buys “a desperate play,” is going on air in response.
I love it. The Obaminions calling Romney’s move into Pennsylvania “desperate” is classic for, “Wow, we didn’t see this one coming and we better get our act together now and fast!” And you know how we know the Obaminions are wrong? Check Governor Rendell’s two word quote at the end of the next paragraph.
The Democratic game is about turnout. The president’s re-election campaign is a formidable operation. In a signal that Pennsylvania is not a closed deal, Mr. Obama last week gave an Oval Office interview to Michael Smerconish, a Philadelphia radio talk-show host who was born in Bucks County and has a following in the collar counties. Gov. Rendell sums up the mood among Democrats: “We’re nervous.”
And this from CNN:
On Monday’s Obama call, campaign manager Jim Messina said of Pennsylvania, “We’re not going to take anything for granted.”
The reason I am watching Pennsylvania so closely is because I think it is signaling something much larger. Somewhat akin to tremors in my state of California before a large earthquake. If Pennsylvania can fall from the Dems, what other states could we see hitting for Governor Romney? The Obaminions never thought their blue state would ever be up for grabs. They never saw this one coming. They are scrambling in full panic mode.
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