Bush has made more than 40 trips to Pennsylvania since losing it by 5 percent (204,000 votes) in 2000 -- more visits than any other state. Republicans still have a big ad buy running this weekend and Bush may be back in Pittsburgh. But privately both sides expect the hoard of electoral votes to be in the Democratic column one more time.
The reasons are many: A massive voter registration drive that has swelled the potential Kerry majority from Philadelphia past 400,000; continued problems for Bush with socially liberal Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs, which he lost to Gore in 2000; and job losses in the western Pennsylvania industrial areas, offsetting the appeal of his views on guns and abortion to its Catholic voters.
Republicans say they have a vastly improved voter-mobilization effort and expect big majorities in Lancaster County and other central Pennsylvania agricultural areas. Two late public polls show the candidates tied, but Republicans concede it would take a last-minute national tide for Bush to give him Pennsylvania.
Sen. Arlen Specter, the Senate's senior Republican moderate, had a tough time defeating conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in the primary, but he has found his current opponent, Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel III (D), less of a challenge.
In House races, state Sen. Allyson Schwartz (D) is favored over Melissa Brown (R) in Hoeffel's suburban district. Republicans have the edge in three other strongly contested races. State Sen. Charlie Dent (R) leads businessman Joe Driscoll (D) for Toomey's Allentown seat. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Bucks County commissioner, is likely to prevail over attorney Ginny Schrader (D) in a seat vacated by retiring Rep. James C. Greenwood (R). Freshman Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) has a strong challenger in attorney Lois Murphy (D) in yet another suburban enclave.