The GOP has reason to hope with the release of recent polls showing President Barack Obama’s previous lead significantly reduced in Pennsylvania.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday had Obama with a 50 percent to 46 percent lead over Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania. A poll done by Muhlenberg College, released on Monday, also had Obama up by 4 percent, leading 49 percent to 45 — within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
This represents a sharp drop for Obama from last month, when The Philadelphia Inquirer placed the president’s lead at 11 percent in a poll released on Sept. 15.
As of Oct. 8 — a day before the state’s voter registration deadline — there were 3,114,868 registered Republicans and 4,214,523 registered Democrats in the state.
The first presidential debate took place on Oct. 3, which polls indicate Romney won by a relatively wide margin.
“My sense is, the polls tightened in Pennsylvania because the first debate inspired a lot of Romney-wary Republicans to get off the fence and support him — and a lot of Democrats were ticked off at Obama’s feckless debate performance,” political columnist and blogger for The Philadelphia Inquirer and public media service WHYY Dick Polman said in an email.
Despite the polling, Pennsylvania’s status as a swing state in this election is still disputed. During the summer, both campaigns pulled all television advertisements from the state.
Assistant political science professor Marc Meredith said Pennsylvania’s swing state status will still be determined by whether or not Romney chooses to capitalize on the new polls and “invest in the state in the next week,” either in advertising or get-out-the-vote efforts.
“I don’t necessarily see PA moving back to the swing-state category; for one thing, there’s no indication that the Romney campaign is planning to spend a lot more money here on ads,” Polman said.
Prominent surrogates from both campaigns have visited the state recently. Ann Romney led a rally at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania on Monday.
“It’s important that I’m here, that people in Pennsylvania know it’s a competitive race again,” she said. “That we’re here. That we recognize that. And that it’s an important election. I think people need to not think that this state is not a possibility for a win for us.”
This was the second visit from the wife of a ticket member in the past few weeks. Jill Biden visited seven Pennsylvania cities, including Philadelphia, on Oct. 8 and 9.
To capitalize on the narrowing gap in Pennsylvania, some suggest that Romney tailor his economic message.
“Pretty much everywhere, Romney wants to be focusing on the economy,” Meredith said in an email. “Relative to the rest of the county, domestic energy issues probably should receive greater attention in Pennsylvania.”
Romney spoke about energy issues in Tuesday’s presidential debate, advocating for domestic energy while attacking Obama’s positions. Pennsylvania has a substantial domestic energy industry.
“What we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas,” Romney said in the debate. “I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas.”
The energy industry has backed Romney considerably more than Obama. While the industry has contributed $6,385,880 to Romney, only $1,607,407 has gone to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The second presidential debate on Tuesday may result in changing poll numbers once again.
“The second debate last night probably arrested Obama’s slide,” Polman said.
According to a CNN poll conducted just after the debate, respondents favored Obama by a margin of 46 to 39 percent. However, 18 percent of respondents preferred Romney’s response on economic issues.
Romney is not the only Republican to have narrowed the gap in polling numbers. While a Quinnipiac University survey from August had Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) ahead of Republican challenger Tom Smith by 18 points, the latest Quinnipiac poll, released on Tuesday, found Casey leading Smith by a margin of 48 to 45 percent.