Behold, Franklin and Marshall's new poll of Pennsylvania:
Before we get to the internals, notice the basic trend line. This month, Mitt Romney broke into the mid-40s, while Obama dropped back into in the upper 40s. Remember a political rule of thumb: An incumbent with universal name recognition who is polling below 50 percent is typically seen as vulnerable. Now, a slightly deeper dive. Mitt Romney leads independents by 16 points in this poll, 48/32, with 10 percent undecided. If the Republican ticket looks well-positioned to win indies by a margin in the 15-20 point range, how does Obama lead the topline number by four points? Simple. The overall partisan split is a whopping D+13. Before you scoff and presume Romney may actually be winning, don't forget that the state's voter registration statistics are pretty similarly lopsided. On the other hand, when I spoke with Susquehanna Polling Director Jim Lee a few weeks ago, he noted that Republican turnout (ie, actual votes) always over-performs the party's registration numbers -- sometimes by a large margin. In the wave year of 2008, the Keystone State electorate was D+7. This poll tacks six points on Democrats' 2008 turnout. If that doesn't come to fruition, strong GOP turnout and independents for Romney could cook up a Pennsylvania surprise. What is Romney's path to victory? The Philly 'burbs:
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
Guess where Romney is running his ads in Pennsylvania? But remember, Team Obama keeps telling us they're not, not, not suddenly spending money on the air in Pennsylvania because they're nervous. So it must be true. I'm nowhere near ready to call an upset here, but it's fascinating to watch Chicago squirm.