Pennsylvania’s status as a crucial swing state has come into question with both campaigns pulling television ads from the state beginning this summer.
From the beginning of the primary election through the week of Sept. 1, $16.9 million has been spent on presidential ads in Pennsylvania, according to The Washington Post. Of the eight states identified as toss-ups — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — Pennsylvania only tops New Hampshire and Wisconsin in advertisement spending.
Swing state status
President Barack Obama has an 11-point lead in the state, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Sept. 15.
“While PA is by no means settled, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that it will be pivotal,” political science assistant professor Marc Meredith said in an email. “It is unlikely to be the swing state that ultimately decides the election.”
Although politicians and strategists have long considered Pennsylvania a swing state, the state has not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988.
“That’s in part because the moderate Republican voters who live in the populous Philadelphia suburbs have become alienated from a party they now see as too conservative,” Dick Polman, political columnist and blogger for The Philadelphia Inquirer and public media service WHYY, wrote in an email. Polman teaches journalism at Penn.
Meredith described Governor Mitt Romney as a less-than-ideal candidate to win Pennsylvania for the Republican Party.
“In the primary he did not receive as much support among the less wealthy, working-class Republicans,” he said in an email. “I think he’ll do worse among these voters than [Senator John] McCain in 2008, which makes it harder for him to win an already slightly Democratic leaning state.”
Although Romney won the Pennsylvania primary with 58 percent of the vote, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum still won second place with 18.3 percent of the vote, despite having already dropped out of the race.
“I don’t think Pennsylvania is a swing state anymore, even with the possibility that the new photo ID law will discourage some Democratic-leaning voters from turning out,” Polman wrote.
Investing in Pennsylvania
Several pro-Romney superPACs have taken their money for television ads from Pennsylvania and moved it to states like Florida, Ohio and Colorado, according to National Public Radio.
While the official campaigns and many superPACs have pulled money from Pennsylvania, the fossil fuel industry is spending money on TV ads in the state, according to The New York Times. Pennsylvania has a considerable amount of coal mines as well as an up-and-coming natural gas industry, which has created controversy in the Pennsylvania court system.
The ads have been in support of Romney and against Obama. So far, the industries have spent over $153 million on television ads. Pro-Romney groups Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS are also airing advertisements promoting more fossil fuel production.
Although funding stopped pouring into Pennsylvania, money has come from the state to the two campaigns. Pennsylvanian individuals have so far donated $6,368,561 to Obama and $5,070,135 to Romney, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
As of July, however, the Inquirer reported that Obama’s Philadelphia fundraising had fallen behind the 2008 rate. Obama for America, the campaign’s main fund, had raised 31 percent less in Philadelphia than it had at the same point in 2008. At the time, however, Romney’s campaign was outraising McCain’s 2008 campaign in Philadelphia.
Despite the lack of TV ads, the campaigns have not entirely left Pennsylvania. Both still have local offices — one of Obama’s field offices opened on 52nd and Walnut streets on May 2, Obama’s sixth office in the Philadelphia area alone. Romney has a Philadelphia office at 529 S. 4th St.
“Both the campaigns will be engaging in other forms of get-out-the-vote,” Meredith said in an email. “Both the campaigns and the interest groups will be doing lots of door knocking and phone calling leading up to the election.”
The lack of TV advertisements is less likely to affect Penn students as much as other demographics.
“I don’t have much time to watch TV,” said College sophomore Kelsey Baker, who is registered to vote in New Jersey. Baker, who is undecided but leaning towards Obama, gets most of her political news online.
“I don’t watch stuff on the air,” College senior Bintou Fisiru said. “I watch online. I have a TV, but it’s always off.” Fisiru is a registered voter in New York and intends to vote for Obama. Political advertisements, she said, don’t really influence her thinking.
“Political ads tend to have less of an effect on those individuals who are pretty knowledgeable about politics,” Meredith said. “Given that Penn students tend to be more knowledgeable about politics than the general population, I would expect ads to be less important to them.”