Assessing the Pennsylvania Prospects

Colleen Nelson in the Wall Street Journal takes the temperature of Pennsylvania and finds a close race without a lot of campaign attention:

Pennsylvania has emerged as an appealing target for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party as they consider where to invest their considerable resources during the final weeks of the presidential campaign. A quick visit to a Pittsburgh suburb on Saturday by Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, suggested that Republicans are eyeing the state—or else trying to keep their opposition guessing.

Pennsylvania is a late bloomer

GOP officials long have said any move into Pennsylvania would come late. The state is the last to start absentee voting and doesn’t allow in-person early voting, so both sides concentrated their early efforts elsewhere.

Where’s the love?

So far during the general-election campaign, Mr. Romney has made five trips to Pennsylvania; President Barack Obama has made two political trips to the state during this campaign.

Poll tighten

Nearly all recent polls show Mr. Obama’s lead in single digits in Pennsylvania, and four of them put his lead at four points or less. A survey released last week by Quinnipiac University found Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney 50% to 46% in the state, down from a 12-percentage-point gap in September.

Cash and carry

Flush with cash and buoyed by encouraging poll numbers in several states, Romney campaign officials say they continue to evaluate whether to bolster staffing and begin advertising in additional states. While polls show the race tightening in several states that previously had dropped off the list of battlegrounds, Pennsylvania is an intriguing possibility for a late-in-the-game investment.

Fool’s gold

With 20 electoral votes—more than Ohio, Virginia or North Carolina—Pennsylvania often beckons to Republicans. then disappoints. The state hasn’t backed a Republican presidential candidate since then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988. Sen. John McCain campaigned in Pennsylvania four years ago but lost by 11 percentage points to Mr. Obama.

Senate coattails?

A close Senate race, in which Republican Tom Smith has invested millions of his own money, also has energized Republicans about their prospects in Pennsylvania.

Staff shuffling signals

If the Romney campaign decides to elevate Pennsylvania as a priority, it would begin adding staff and airing ads in the state. So far, that hasn’t happened. In fact, five Republican campaign staff members in Pennsylvania recently were redeployed to Ohio and Virginia, leaving the Romney team and the Republican National Committee with about 60 staffers in the state.

A changing Pennsylvania

Registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania. But Rob Gleason, chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, pointed to GOP gains in the 2010 election as evidence that the state is now “a little more red than people might think.” The GOP in 2010 won the governor’s office, which had been held by a Democrat, and the Senate seat that had been held by the late Arlen Specter, a Republican who became a Democrat toward the end of his career.


  1. Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is what frustrates me a bit.

    Obama has packed up and abandoned North Carolina. Yet Romney is still making ad buys and spending buckets of money in the state.

    He has cash to burn, allegedly, so he can leave a token presence behind and start moving money and numbers into PA, MI, MN even. Doesn’t seem to be happening though……unless there’s going to be a huge blitz in the final week.

    • allthingsgeography1
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      He comes across as a very cautious man. I think he’d be happy just getting over 270. For him, those other states you mentioned might be icing on the cake if he’s already got the overwhelming support needed to flip those states red without spending much money.

      • spottedreptile
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        You don’t want to pull out entirely and let the other side encroach back into the field unguarded. Leave a garrison there as you move into other areas. I’m not sure Romney wants to start spending big in blue states – he doesn’t need to, and it might be risky opening up a new front this close to polling day. If PA falls, it falls. If not, he has the other swing states sewn up.

    • jeff
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There will be a massive ad blitz starting probably in the ladt 10 days. Right now the Romney campaign is calibrating its efforts for the final push which will likely focus on CO OH PA WI IA and maybe MI and MN.. I think they know FL and VA is in the bag as well as NC.

  2. allthingsgeography1
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I believe Pennsylvania is in play. I’ve told some of my liberal and conservative friends alike to watch PA on election night. If it falls into Romney’s hands, at 20 electoral votes and a tradition as a blue state since 1992, the election for Obama is pretty much over. It’s a surprise flip that makes me the most nervous, moreso than the existing longer-termed battlegrounds. Same thing with Minnesota.

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Pretty much Allthings? If PA flips, I’m flipping over permnately to MSNBC for the rest of the night to watch the follies 😉

      • allthingsgeography1
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        Yeah…I could pretty much see Chris Matthews having an aneurysm if PA became a red state…with VP Biden probably having a crazy tirade. lol.

      • spottedreptile
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        Oh, can’t you imagine it? “Pennsylvania is OUT????? PA IS OUT????”

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

      So what is your brain telling you Allthings? Not what your heart tells you, but what the data, history and what you have been reading here? I’ve got one progressive friend who is quite nervous, but he is big into the HOPE part of hope and change…

      • allthingsgeography1
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        My brain tells me that Obama will likely be defeated on November 6th. If you take into account the high democratic turnout models in these polls for Ohio, it is Romney that is likely ahead and not Obama. Like Keith, I think a blend of 2004-2008 turnout is best, but after what I saw in 2010, I have serious suspicions that Republican turnout could be enormous as it has been a long time since Republicans have wanted to throw out someone so undesirable to them. But it’s not only Republicans, but also suburban independents and conservative Democrats. Plus, with high unemployment and other negative economic factors, Obama is trying to go against the winds of history. Only Roosevelt has been able to get away with high unemployment because it was just so horribly bad and the Republican-brand was in the toilet. This isn’t the case this time around. Obama will likely join Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush as presidents who simply failed to win because the economic winds were against them.

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        I have followed presidential elections since ’92. I knew weeks ahead that Dole and McCain were not going to win. Bush 2000 I had no idea, but 60/40 in ’04.

        This election i have been 50/50 until the debate, now 70/30 Romney because of what you mentioned basically. 1) Incumbent running under 50% in both approval on vote percentage 2) Independents: I haven’t seen one national poll where BO has gotten more INdy’s. 3) Enthusiasum

        Thanks for your intellectual honesty. Things don’t always go the way we want them in politics, but all we really have is our integrity when it comes to calling them as we see them.

      • No Tribe
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        I thought Bush was going to win easily in 2000, was shocked that Gore had a shot election night– that Florida/Pennsylvania/Michigan all went his way. That’s really only been the tough one to call over the past decades. The polls were somewhat right:

      • Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        very astute take Allthingsgeography….My gut says he SHOULD lose based on all that you said, but this has been the man to defy history and convention. From his election, to passing Obamacare to getting it uphelp by the SCOTUS. I would never count him out until they say Mitt Romney is the 45th POTUS.

        I do tend to agree anyone elected in 08 had a thankless and no win situation. The economy was worse than most people ever imagined. You have a person elected who is not a fan of the capitalist system (in the sense of there being many very successful rich people) and his first attack was to double down on stimulus like Bush did that bailed out very badly run businesses. Then he went to Obamacare. that was his downfall. That, considering the massive disapproval of that legislation drove a stake through the heart of the market system and the confidence of business owners, employers and the average American.

        Had he not done Obamacare…I believe the economy would have regained faster and he would have been a shoe in for a second term and maybe even pick up the house where he could have done Obamacare in a bipartisan and popular manner.

        Guess we will know in 15 days.

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        I think the drunk driving report and watching some of the numbers dive made me wonder…I guess when I think back over the past 20, I remember vividly the campaign’s I knew that weren’t going to succeed. The others, maybe cautious optimism doesn’t quite sink into the memory banks.

  3. Ron
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Neither campaign is spending money in PA at this point. It may be best to let well enough alone without big expenditures–and let turnout decide the results. Spending big bucks here would only invite increased activity by the Dems. The key to victory is taking OH, then CO, with VA, NC and FL under our belt. The rest is gravy. If it’s meant to be a landslide, it’ll happen whether or not R expands his targets.

    • No Tribe
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Agreed Ron. Think Tennessee in 2000.

      • valleyforge
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        Without TN Bush would have lost. It wasn’t gravy.

  4. bobhadababyitsaboy
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I was in south eastern PA last week and saw nothing but Romeny/Ryan signs. I think PA is in play!

    • valleyforge
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I live in Chester county and drive all over the 4-county suburban area. Definitely more outward Romney/Republican support than Obama. But I think that’s just a sign of the enthusiasm gap rather than a huge swing in attitude. Romney will likely win Chester and Bucks after losing them by 18 points, but that’s not enough – he will need SW PA to continue morphing into GOP territory and will need a huge turnout in the already solid Republican middle and northern tier.

      • malvernmom
        Posted October 23, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        He must win Delaware county to win. That is the county that matters in the Philly suburbs and it was once a republican strong hold but with the flow of movement from the city into the suburbs, Delaware county has become more diluted and is leaning more democratic. It is a heavily populated and important indicator of the SE part of the state. My in-laws live there and say the lawn signs are nothing like ’08 so the Obama enthusiasm is definitely down, so there is a chance as republican enthusiasm is most certainly up based on lawn signs. It also may be reflective of money the Romney campaign has put into lawn signs that Obama has not. I live in Chester county and have also noticed a large difference in signs, but I have also heard supply is way down in the democratic headquarters compared to last election. Also there was an article in the local patch about theft and destruction of Obama signs which is telling. Last election, you were vilified for being a republican, this year it is much more the accepted norm. Just my observations.

  5. shane
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m conservative and believe Pennsylvania and Minnesota are NOT in play. They are two states that if Romney wins in a late falling landslide will flip with the current. But I don’t buy that 15 days he can overcome a mid to upper single digits in two very blue states.
    It’s Ohio, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio…It’s 4th and goal, 30 secs left down by 2. Do you go for the end zone and try to win by 4 but maybe miss and lose or take the chip shot fieldgoal and win the game by 1?

    • Posted October 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Well with PA it’s pretty much been the “LOW single digits”, with a couple of polls showing RR ahead. Even allowing for the fact that those polls might be outliers, it’s still a statistical tie at worst.

      Even PPP with all their secret herbs and spices fudge factors could only get Obama up 6 or 7 here.

    • jeff
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It could be that their internals show RR ahead 3 or 4 in OH. Time will tell whethet PA is a head fake or if its really in play.

      • Medicine Man
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        I think Jeff may be on to something. We are seeing all these D+5,6,7 polls with either BO up by 1 or tied or polling at 45 pr 47. I believe there is some quiet confidence with RR and trying to decide what state is the next lowest hanging fruit and the biggest prize.

      • No Tribe
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

        I think Romney is going to stick in Ohio through the election. It’s what he needs to win. I’ll bet, out of the 14 days after Monday’s debate, he is in Ohio for an event at least 7 out of those days.

  6. zang
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Every election, there’s always some “sleeper” House race, where a seemingly invulnerable incumbent loses to everyone’s (or most everyone’s) surprise. PA could do that this year. Keeping things low key is probably important for the sleeper race dynamic. Dems will go soft on their aggressive “knock and drag” get out the vote in Philly.

    • jeff
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ive yet seen a credible poll where BO has even reached 50 in OH PA or even MN. Very bad for an incumvabt just two weeks before an election. We may very well be surprised and even shocked at the weakness of his support in the Blue states come election day.

      • No Tribe
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        That’s entirely what I look at Jeff. Even David Plouffe has remarked that this is how to measure Obama (a month ago when he was strong). If Obama is not at 48-49 average by the final poll, he is toast in the state imo.

  7. valleyforge
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Months ago we were told that the campaigns would have so much money they could advertise everywhere – in fact they’d have to because there wasn’t enough ad time to buy in Ohio. Well, now they’re pouring virtually all that money into just 8 states. Past campaigns fiercely competed in 12, 15, 20, or more states with far less money.

    Which is to say that buying ads in PA is a no-brainer. Relative to OH we are largely virgin territory and it may actually be money well spent.

    The hard part is whether to send the candidate there. And that will all depend on where the polls are in OH.

    • No Tribe
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The amount of money going into Virginia right now is insane. Was watching the playoff tonight for a bit, every break there were 4 out of 6 ads being political. The worst are the Kaine and Allen ones. It’s like being in Iowa.

  8. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    RAND is picking up a huge shift in momentum the last couple of days, very similar to what Gallup is picking up in terms of voter enthusiasm. Just like Gallup had Romney hit an all-time high on RV’s modeling, RAND has an all-time high for Romney on intention to vote. I am sure that Nate Silver will be all over this…. haha

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

      NT: thx for the IRAND updates. Things that Nate Silver tends to keep and eye on I tend not to.

      • No Tribe
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

        He only mentions RAND when it shows up an extreme for Obama, like it was about 5 days ago. At the rate of change that its going to Romney right now, it’ll be awhile before he brings it back up. I expect he’ll be mentioning TIPP quite a bit next couple of days.

  9. Eric
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The Romney campaign has decreased its ads in North Carolina, but not eliminated them. Obama has maintained his ads in North Carolina. SuperPacs have poured money into Michigan….why??? Put that Michigan money in Pennsylvania! Michigan won’t go for Romney unless a lot of other states already have.

    In the primaries when I was against Romney, I remember him always dumping a HUGE load of money right before the election. Maybe he’s planning on doing that again. Romney’s real advantage in money is with the SuperPACS, but even then that effect is minimal compared to Romney’s on the ground advantage. People are calling friends and family to tell them to vote for Romney. Nothing beats word of mouth advertising.

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’m thinking that may be the play in PA. Last 7-10 days, big buys in PA and a couple other.

    • Dave Ped
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I live in NH and I can just “feel” the shift going on the last week or two. Each time I go out for a drive, I see more, new RR signs popping up in peoples houses and businesses. Large ones too. It is probably 30:1 ratio R to O signs. I think we will get Ovide in as Gov as well. I just hope we send our two R reps back to congress. The area I live in probably went for McCain pretty heavy but I do not remember this many signs. I think people are becoming “excited” to vote for RR. I am thinking it will be epic.

  10. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The biggest shift that has not been covered is the transformation of the favorable ratings among the candidates. I have never seen an incumbent win a race when they are below 50% and behind on favorable ratings to the challengers. That will not happen. It is really remarkable that Romney has pulled that off, and yet he has. Today’s PPP:

    Obama: 48/48
    Romney: 49/45

    That’s just mind-blowing stuff compared with a month ago. Look at it two ways:

    Romney’s unfavorables have fallen like a rock:

    Romney’s jagged rise in favorables:!smoothing=less&showpoints=no&estimate=custom

    Obama is quickly nearing the lowest point in his entire presidency on his favorable rating:!smoothing=less&showpoints=no&estimate=custom

    You’ll notice in the above graph’s, that Romney has fallen a bit in his favorables. This is because Obama has had to throw out his entire ‘hope and change’ theme, to personally go after Romney. It’s a rapid freefall for Obama, who is in danger of a negative crossover about to happen:!mindate=2012-01-01&smoothing=less&showpoints=no&estimate=custom

    • jeff
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Its the debates especially the second. Obama looked smug and arrogant. Of course the MSM thought he won the debate but failed to notice just how unlikeable he appeared to most people I think I have confidence that MR will look more presidential tomorrow

      • margaret
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:44 am | Permalink

        The odd thing that I noticed a few years ago when I first saw a photo of Romney is he actually “looks” presidential. It’s like he’s someone from central casting playing a presidential candidate. I don’t know exactly what it is, but he has a paternalistic, presidential air about him, and a leadership quality. Maybe this is what many voters tuned in and saw in the first debate, and have swung over to his side ever since.

  11. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am beginning to think that we have left the golden era of being able to aggregate the outcome based on all the polls. 2004 and 2008 were both right on that way. I am doubtful that happens in 2012.

    • petep
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:47 am | Permalink | Reply

      The general aggregate poll idea is largely useless due to the skewing of the polls. RCP really needs to update their system and average polls according to party demographics.

  12. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Obama’s changed his slogan, it’s now “America Forward!” That makes absolutely no sense. I think Romney settling on “Believe in America” replacing “Restore America” a few months ago was a great move.

  13. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Alright, getting down to the last two weeks events:

    Obama Tue: Florida, Ohio
    Obama Wed: Iowa, Colorado, Nevada
    Obama Thur: Florida, Virginia, Ohio

    Romney Tue: Nevada, Colorado

    Nothing yet for Wed and Thur for Romney. Ryan is camping out in Colorado for 3 days.

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Interesting that he is going to FLA so much. My guess is to see if he can get some numbers to move so Romney has to go there the following week instead of Ohio. Smart play

      • No Tribe
        Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

        Democrats view Florida as the ultimate state to win. It is like the inverse of PA for Republicans. Romney has to fudge someplace to bank on his living in Ohio, and it’d probably be Florida.

      • jeff
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:00 am | Permalink

        I live in Florida. The chances of BO carrying of FL are nil.

    • WillBest
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:17 am | Permalink | Reply

      My understanding in FL is they are encouraged by the fact that they aren’t down as far in early voting/absentee as they were in 2008.

  14. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Pretty fair battleground writeup:

    Only thing that he should have added is that Obama’s margin and average are dropping in Ohio past week.

  15. No Tribe
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My current prediction:
    290-248 Romney

    On Ohio:

    • jeff
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:13 am | Permalink | Reply

      It just seems that Romney appears much more confident and relaxed while Obama seems like hes running scared. Perhaps the intermal polls are showing a much different story.

      • EpiphoneKnight
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

        I really wish we knew those.

  16. Teapartypaul
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    I am honestly surprised you guys aren’t discussing this…

    Tom smith has millions to spend!!!!

    Smith in the senate race will drive votes And advertising. Dems and brown have got caught sleeping in this senate race! They are being blindsided with smiths self funded money And outsider status and appeal.

    I think that is the underlying crucial driver in pa

    • Teapartypaul
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:22 am | Permalink | Reply

      What we also need to check is if the rnc has shifted funds to pa state GOP. We need someone to check battleground state party coffers, both transfers and current cash totals.

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