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Pennsylvania has always had a tough time making a big impact on the national stage. Its largest metropolis, Philadelphia, was passed over as the nation's permanent capital city. James Buchanan, a Pennsylvania native who was the nation's 15th president, is considered one of the worst chief executives in history and is best known for embroiling the country in the Civil War. And when it comes to sporting victories? Well, let's just say that the Phillies and the Pirates are still leaving much to be desired. That record of frustration may end on Tuesday, though, when America heads to the polls to select the 43rd president of the United States. With the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore still too close to call, many are saying that the voters in this state, which commands 23 crucial electoral votes, may have a big say in determining the next resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "If you line all the states up, from the most Democratic to the most Republican based on past voting history, you can see fairly clearly which state is likely to deliver the 270th and deciding electoral vote," Penn Political Science Department Chairman Jack Nagel said. "If states vote as they have in the past, then it is very likely that Pennsylvania could be the state that will deliver that vote," Nagel said. In the winner-take-all Electoral College system, the outcomes of most state races can be predicted weeks ahead of time. Democratic-leaning states like New York and Massachusetts have long been considered in Gore's column, while GOP-inclined territories such as Texas and Indiana fell into Bush hands almost from the start. That leaves just a handful of states as legitimate tossups for Election Day. Pennsylvania, of course, isn't alone in the category -- it's joined by such notable locales as Florida, Michigan and Missouri. But with so many votes and a track record for picking the ultimate winner -- the state has correctly voted for the presidential victor in the last seven elections -- Pennsylvania is drawing considerable attention from both of the major candidates. Both Bush and Gore have spent more than 15 days each traversing the state over the last few months, and a recent study released by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University ranked Pennsylvania first in the amount of money spent on candidates' TV ads. Campaign and party officials say the attention is well-warranted. "I think we've appropriately been the focus of the campaigns," State Republican Party Chairman Alan Novak said. "On every one of the maps, Pennsylvania always comes up as crucial because of the sheer number of votes and the fact that it's still so close here." A spokesman for the Gore campaign agreed. "Clearly, it's a critical state," Dan Pfeiffer said. "There are 23 electoral votes, and it's really a linchpin in both campaign strategies to get to 270." Pfeiffer added that the campaign is taking Pennsylvania so seriously that much of Gore's crucial last-minute campaigning time is going to be spent in the Keystone State. "Gore is going to be all over the state," he said. "He's going to be in Pittsburgh on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday, and Joe Lieberman will be in other parts of the state on Monday." Bush is likewise planning on making a last-minute swing to the northeast's only significant battleground state. He will visit both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on Saturday. Such heavy attention, officials say, has done much to heighten citizen awareness and involvement in the respective campaigns. "We've never seen such grassroots intensity in any campaign we've ever had here," Novak said.

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