Amid rumors in Republican circles and on the Internet that the Romney campaign had decided to write off Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes as lost to President Barack Obama, the Republican candidate‚??s surge in polls last week made it clear they felt the Keystone State was in play.
‚??Pennsylvania is a state which the Romney campaign believes presents a real opportunity for a Romney victory,‚?Ě Katie Packer Gage, Romney‚??s deputy national campaign manager, told Human Events. ‚??If President Obama can’t win there, he can’t win at all. So we plan to fight hard there. We have seen evidence in recent days that the Romney/Ryan message is resonating in Pennsylvania and the voters there are moving our way. So we will continue to maintain a strong presence there in the form of victory centers, boots on the ground and an aggressive ‚??get out the vote‚?? program.‚?Ě
The rumors of a Romney exit from Pennsylvania, however, came in the same week as two polls conducted after the first presidential debate showed the contest a dead heat in the state. The Susquehanna Poll showed that among likely voters in the state, Barack Obama led Mitt Romney by a margin of only 47 to 45 percent, with 3 percent going to Libertarian Gary Johnson. These results were similar to those of a Sienna College Research Institute poll, showing Obama leading Romney 43 to 40 percent among likely voters in Pennsylvania and 17 percent undecided.
Regarding requests from local GOP activists for dates for further visits from Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, Gage said: ‚??As we get closer to Election Day we will evaluate to decide whether to schedule additional visits from the candidates or to devote additional resources there. But for now it remains a definite target for our campaign.‚?Ě
Party activists throughout the state confirmed that enthusiasm since the Oct. 3 Romney-Obama debate has been at all-time high and that this has translated into a strong infantry of volunteers.
‚??Pennsylvania is in play — no question about it,‚?Ě former seven-term Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) told us. ‚??The debate was certainly helpful but (Romney‚??s rise) is also because our candidate is offering hope to the middle class-taxpayer here and an understanding of an important local issue — unfair play by China in trade.‚?Ě
As for what local business leaders in his own Erie County think when they hear the Obama administration‚??s insistence that the U.S. is on the ‚??road to recovery,‚?Ě English said: ‚??They think these guys are from Mars.‚?Ě
English, who has walked precincts since his mother was state co-chairman of Richard Nixon‚??s re-election campaign in 1972, pointed out that ‚??our victory centers here are packed with volunteers and what is especially heartening is that so many of them are young people who are very concerned about their future. They feel so strongly about it they are working hard as volunteers for Gov. Romney and change.‚?Ě
The former congressman also said that at fairs in surrounding rural counties, ‚??there is a demand for Romney bumper stickers, buttons, and yardsigns. I hope our state headquarters gets the things the people want and doesn‚??t spend everything on television.‚?Ě
Another former Republican House member, Melissa Hart of western Pennsylvania, told a similar story about the growing amount of Republican volunteers and enthusiasm for the GOP ticket in her part of the state.
‚??We also have a strong Catholics-for-Romney group here,‚?Ě said Hart, noting that its volunteers are motivated by the pro-life issue and the administration‚??s controversial mandate to Catholic hospitals regarding contraception.
The former congresswoman added that she had just finished a long drive through western Pennsylvania and “I saw something you don’t see often at election time —¬† home after home with a Romney-Ryan yardsigns out front. Normally, people here have yardsigns for local and countywide candidates, but never for presidential candidates — not to the degree those signs are out there now.”
Based on the signs of activity she described, we asked Hart if she felt Romney was poised to carry Pennsylvania over Obama.
“Not yet,” she replied. “The grassroots work is outstanding, but the Romney campaign needs to have more of a presence on the airwaves. That’s what they need to finish the job.”
It has been 24 years since Pennsylvania gave its electoral votes to a Republican nominee for president. Given the closeness of the latest polls, the momentum could easily shift back to President Obama after the next two debates. But for now, Phil English is clearly on target when he says ‚??Pennsylvania is in play — no question about it.‚?Ě