By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG – Just about every day during the 18-month presidential campaign, Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes seemed firmly in President Barack Obama’s column.
But in the final week before the election, Republicans are trying to engineer a fourth-quarter comeback.
Boosted by more than $10 million in outside spending from independent groups last week, Mitt Romney made his case to replace Obama in the White House during a campaign stop Sunday in Bucks County. It was the first the former Massachusetts governor visited Pennsylvania since April, when he was campaigning for the Republican nomination.
Romney said Obama has fallen short of what he promised as a candidate four years ago.
“The president thinks more government is the answer. No, Mr. President, more good jobs is the answer,” Romney told the crowd. Media reports citing U.S. Secret Service estimates said more than 30,000 people attended the Sunday night rally.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Romney’s running mate, made a campaign stop Saturday in Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania has not backed a Republican candidate for president since George H.W. Bush won the state in 1988.
Obama’s supporters pointed out that George W. Bush made last-minute visits to Pennsylvania in 2000 and 2004 without success. John McCain did the same in 2008, but Obama won the state by 10 points.
“With less than a week to go and consistently down in must-win states, Mitt Romney’s campaign is desperately trying to find a path to 270 electoral votes with no avail,” said Desiree Peterkin, communications adviser for Obama’s campaign in Pennsylvania.
But a poll from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review released Sunday showed the two candidates tied with 47 percent of the vote. The poll included 800 likely voters and had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
The Real Clear Politics polling average has Obama leading by 3.9 percent, but lists the state as a tossup.
Democrats seem to be taking Romney’s late push seriously.
Obama’s campaign dispatched former President Bill Clinton to make four campaign stops in Pennsylvania on Monday. He was scheduled to speak in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Blue Bell, a Philadelphia suburb.
Those locations tell you all you need to know about how Democrats plan to win the state.
Observers say turnout will be key for both sides, particularly for Obama. Low turnout in Philadelphia and its suburbs could be bad news for the president, who figures to struggle in western Pennsylvania, where Democrats seem to be less enthused about the president.
In 2008, Obama won Pennsylvania by 620,000 votes. Most of that edge came from Philadelphia, where he won by 460,000 votes.
Romney’s challenge on Tuesday is to avoid a landslide defeat in the southeast and make up the difference in central and western Pennsylvania.
With 20 electoral votes at stake — only California, New York, Texas and Florida offer bigger Electoral College tallies — a surprise win in Pennsylvania would big a huge step toward victory for Romney.
“If Romney wins here, you’d have to think he’s in great shape,” said Chris Borick, a pollster and professor of political science at Muhlenberg College.
Neither candidate will be in Pennsylvania on the final day before the election.
Obama plans to visit Ohio and Wisconsin on Monday, while Romney will make last-minute stops in Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire, according to the candidates’ campaigns.
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