TAMPA — According to the Realclearpolitics poll average, the presidential race in Pennsylvania isn’t close. On average, President Obama leads by eight points. At one point the state was thought to be in play. By contrast, in neighboring Ohio, the race is virtually dead even.
Part of the explanation is no doubt due to the time and resources the Romney-Ryan ticket have devoted to Ohio, but the question remains: Is the Keystone State gettable for the Republicans?
Pennsylvania media are casting a skeptical eye on Romney’s chances. One report yesterday in Harrisburg’s Patriot-News noted:
Even the latest Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll, the first taken in the state after Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate, didn’t show any dent in Obama’s numbers in Pennsylvania.
Worst of all, the ballot isn’t on his side. There are no other big Republican names to help draw out voters. In fact, it’s stacked the other way. Sen. Bob Casey is predicted to trounce his opponent, and Kathleen Kane, the Democrat running for attorney general, is generating a lot of buzz as a female seeking statewide office. Her promises to review the Penn State scandal, including Gov. Tom Corbett’s potential involvement, also are touching a nerve that crosses party lines.
Former Republican congressman Robert Walker, who was at the Newt U. gathering today at the Republican convention, remains outwardly optimistic. He told me that he thinks Romney-Ryan can run up a lead of 160,000 votes in Lancaster County, “more than George Bush got.” In his view Romney-Ryan will also play well in the Philadelphia suburbs, where it is critical for Republicans to at least remain close. It is in coal country, however, that Walker sees an opening for Romney-Ryan.
Mitt Romney rolled out an energy plan recently, something that should appeal to the part of the state in which coal and deep oil exploration present the potential for an economic boom. Walker maintains, “Voters are waiting to see Romney’s vision.” If Romney can clearly make the case for his own energy policy and what it could mean for job development for the state, Walker thinks the race will tighten.
Meanwhile, as the Patriot-News noted, the Senate race remains problematic for Republicans. Tom Smith is trailing Casey by double digits. Romney-Ryan, therefore, can’t depend on the Senate race to generate enthusiasm among Republicans.
States not originally thought to be in play (e.g. Wisconsin, Michigan) will no doubt command more of the Romney-Ryan resources. Unless Romney is able to get out the message on his energy plan and move the numbers after the convention, the hope of carrying Pennsylvania will fade.