Polls have tightened, and President Obama’s lead is now just slightly larger than the statistical margin of error. Some $10 million in ads for Republican challenger Mitt Romney flooded in last week, large Romney-Ryan yard signs have sprouted on the spacious lawns of these affluent suburbs, and Romney swooped in Sunday for a rally that drew 30,000 to a farm in neighboring Bucks County.
If the GOP nominee hopes to be the first in nearly a quarter-century to pick off Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, he’ll have to eat into the fat margin that Montgomery County delivered to Democrats in 2008. The Obama campaign is concerned enough about the state that it has reserved ad time during the “Monday Night Football” game in which the beloved Philadelphia Eagles are playing, and former president Bill Clinton is packing in four rallies Monday.
The gritty hand-to-hand combat to turn out voters, always intense on the weekend before Election Day, has taken on a frenzied quality this year in a state with no early voting and a requirement that a voter must really be absent to get an absentee ballot.
The hurricane messed up the careful calibrations of the vaunted Obama get-out-the-vote operation. About 25 polling places, most in the eastern part of the state, remained without electricity late Sunday. Some 81,000 customers were in their seventh day with no power. Each day brings another legal skirmish over access to the polls in a state whose Republican-controlled legislature enacted one of the most restrictive voter-identification laws in the country.
“Having Romney come here, does it mean we are at risk?” asked Allyson Schwartz, a Democratic congresswoman seeking her fifth term. She was one of the candidates Shapiro had led into the drab basement of a condo building here, the first event in a long weekend of energizing an electorate distracted by toppled trees, lost power and a deferred Halloween.
“I’m nervous,” said Shirley Curry, a longtime local Democratic leader. “Did you hear that new Romney radio ad? It’s good.”
People deconstructed, nervously, what former governor and Democratic National Committee head Edward G. Rendell said recently about the possibility of a “startling upset” in the state: Was he acknowledging Romney’s appeal? Or was that a head fake, a way to get people fired up?