Both presidential campaigns have put Pennsylvania back on the map in the final stretch of the election.
The campaigns are courting Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes with advertisement buys and campaign stops by candidates and high-profile surrogates.
“The Romney campaign is searching for additional states it can win in case it is unable to win in Ohio, and [it] sees Pennsylvania as one of those states,” political science professor Marc Meredith said in an email.
Polls have found President Barack Obama narrowly ahead of Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Ohio, a toss-up state with 18 electoral votes. Other polls have found the two candidates in a tie in the state.
The RealClearPolitics polling average, taken from Oct. 24 to Nov. 5, has Obama ahead by 2.9 percentage points in Ohio — 50.0 percent to Romney’s 47.1.
“Though Obama is still favored [in Pennsylvania], by stepping up his efforts, Romney sends a message that the campaign has some momentum in unexpected places, and that may help not only here but in Ohio,” political science professor Rogers Smith said in an email.
The poll numbers in Pennsylvania, while close, have consistently favored Obama since February, with the exception of a Tribune-Review/Susquehanna poll completed on Oct. 31 that had the candidates in dead heat. However, Obama’s lead has narrowed substantially since the summer and early fall, when he led Romney by double digits.
A Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll conducted from Nov. 1 to 3 placed Obama narrowly ahead of Romney in Pennsylvania by 49-46, within the poll’s five-point margin of error. The RealClearPolitics average, taken from Oct. 23 to Nov. 4, has Obama leading by 3.8 points.
In the hopes of swaying voters in a final push, the campaigns reinvested advertisement money in Pennsylvania. Although both campaigns suspended advertisements in the state beginning this summer, Obama’s campaign bought $1.6 million in airtime on Oct. 30. While Romney’s campaign has not disclosed their ad buys, the campaign has purchased at least $120,000, according to NBC News.
Republican super PACs have also stepped up to buy airtime for the Romney campaign in the final stretch. Restore Our Future purchased $2.1 million worth of ads on Oct. 29 and American Crossroads bought $1.2 million the next day.
“The additional [television] ads have more potential to affect voter behavior [than campaign stops],” Meredith said, although he added the local news coverage of campaign events would also generate publicity for the candidates.
Eight of the 38 campaign-related stops by both camps in Pennsylvania since June have occurred within the last two weeks. Romney led a rally in Bucks County Sunday, and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan made two appearances — one in Moon Township and one in Harrisburg. Former President Bill Clinton made four stops in Pennsylvania the day before the election, visiting Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Bluebell and Scranton. Romney plans to stop in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday.
“It is telling that it is Clinton, and not Obama, who the Democrats are sending,” Meredith said. In contrast, the Romney campaign has sent their nominees, not surrogates.
The partisan demographics of the state affected the message the campaigns pushed in the final weeks of the election. Just over half — 50.1 percent — of Pennsylvania voters are registered Democrats, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State as of Nov. 5. Registered Republicans account for 36.8 percent of the state’s voters, and the other 13.1 percent are “other” or “no affiliation.”
“The Obama campaign, which has bet on a strong ‘Get-Out-the-Vote’ effort in the closing days over ad buys, will be focused even more on making that happen,” Smith said.
Clinton’s message at the Palestra Monday evening began with the GOTV theme. “Every person is needed in Pennsylvania,” he said as he gestured to the crowd. “Every single last, solitary person.”
With the numbers in mind, the Romney campaign will focus on “ads that may sway the unaffiliated,” Smith said.
Meredith added that while Democrats would have the “slightly easier job of ensuring their partisans will vote with their party,” Republicans face a steeper challenge to sway voters to their side.