Pennsylvania is now a GOP stronghold
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. On Tuesday, the Romney campaign leaked plans to air television ads in Pennsylvania, starting as early as today. The effort joins two pro-Republican Super PACs that on Monday revealed a $3 million-plus last-minute ad blitz, including in the expensive Philadelphia media market.
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.
Do the math. The 2004 Bush campaign sought to limit his deficit in predominantly Democratic Philadelphia and the collar counties to around 400,000 votes. Mr. Bush ended up losing the area by half a million votes, giving the state to John Kerry by 142,000. (Mr. Obama won the area by 681,000 votes, the state by 621,000.) The Romney campaign wants to hold the losses here to at most 425,000 votes and pick up the difference in the rest of the state. Mr. Romney even looks competitive in traditionally Democratic Allegheny County, around Pittsburgh, which hasn't gone Republican for president since 1972. President Obama needs to run up his score in and around Philadelphia.
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.There is much more.
Polling has been trended toward Romney and the data presented in this piece explains why. I think the shale gas boom as well as teh coal business in the state has also contributed to support for Romney's energy plan. Romney's message on teh economy and jobs is consistent with the message of GOP candidates who won statewide in 2010 and this is looking like a 2010 type election with independents supporting Romney.