First we had both sides going up on air in Minnesota, with Chicago deploying Bill Clinton up there to batten down the hatches. Then we saw reports that Joe Biden was headed to Scranton, PA -- which was no big deal, we were told, because he did the same thing in 2008. (The stop was axed, due to weather). Next came the news that Romney's SuperPAC was dropping more than $2 million on Pennsylvania ads, followed quickly by the Obama campaign's decision to spend money on the airwaves in the state. And now, rumors have become reality: The Romney campaign is on the air in Pennsylvania:
This ad will reportedly begin airing in the Philadelphia suburbs, a region where some analysts have noted Romney's strength, relative to previous Republican presidential nominees. The Romney campaign blasted out a memo on the Keystone State this afternoon, explaining that it's part of the GOP's "ever-expanding map." A few excerpts, via the campaign's Political Director, Rich Beeson:
[Former Governor Ed] Rendell (D-PA): ‘Startling upset’ for Romney ‘a possibility’ in Pennsylvania. When Governor Ed Rendell made these comments last week, he was clearly sending a desperate call to Chicago for help in the Keystone State. At the time, his comments were met with derision and scorn from the Obama High Command who were feeling secure in their own predictions of a landslide victory. What a difference a few days makes. Not only has Minnesota has been moved to “Lean Dem” and the Obama Campaign is up in that state with a significant television buy, but the Chicago gurus have heeded Governor Rendell’s plea and are buying television in Pennsylvania and sending the Vice-President in to help prop up their flagging campaign. With one week to go, and 96% of the vote on the table on Election Day in Pennsylvania, this expansion of the electoral map demonstrates that Governor Romney’s momentum has jumped containment from the usual target states and has spread to deeper blue states that Chicago neveranticipated defending.
The Romney campaign has the resources to expand the map in ways that weren’t possible in past cycles (without reducing any effort in any other target state). After fully funding the paid media effort, the ground operations and the voter contact programs, Governor Romney’s message of bringing real recovery continues to resonate with voters, volunteers, and donors. Pennsylvania presents a unique opportunity for the Romney campaign. Over the past few years we have seen Pennsylvania voting for a Republican senator and a Republican governor, and Republicans win control of the State House in addition to the State Senate. The western part of the Keystone State has become more conservative (and President Obama’s war on coal is very unpopular there), and Mitt Romney is more competitive in the voter-rich Philadelphia suburbs than any Republican nominee since 1988. This makes Pennsylvania a natural next step as we expand the playing field. While the Obama campaign would like to wish it is 2008, the reality is that they are now forced to “play defense” in least six states (Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and Wisconsin) that they once believed were “safe” Obama wins.
New data from the RNC shows that Republican absentee voting is outpacing Democrats' ballots in Pennsylvania by a margin of 18 percentage points so far, up from a roughly two percentage point GOP advantage in 2008. It also appears that early voting is significantly down overall compared to the last cycle, though much of that shift is due to the fact that absentee balloting just started in the state (so the totals will grow on both sides in the next week -- though perhaps less than usual, due to the storm). Some conservatives are pointing to this information as proof that Pennsylvania is ripe for the picking. Not so fast. Keystone State voters overwhelmingly vote on election day itself; 96 percent, according to Beeson's memo quoted above. Nevertheless, if Romney can lock down large swaths of the western part of the state and compete strongly in the Philly collar counties, you never know what could happen. The Obama campaign is clearly feeling antsy in one of the bluest states in their famed "firewall." Romney has the money and infrastructure to stoke those fears and make a last-minute play. I'd be very surprised if he actually wins the state, but the fact that he's diverting Chicago's resources and fueling an "Obama on defense" narrative are tactical victories in and of themselves. I'll leave you with two polls from even bluer territory:
(1) Oregon: Obama 47, Romney 41 (2008 result: Obama by 16).
(2) California: Obama by 12. (2008 result: Obama by 24)
UPDATE - The Obama campaign is spinning this as a sign of weakness by the Romney campaign. Right, which is why they're running ads in PA, too.