Pa. finally gets some campaign ad money
HARRISBURG — Presidential campaign TV advertisements are returning to Pennsylvania in earnest, as two pro-Mitt Romney super PACs are buying airtime and President Obama’s campaign said on Monday it will respond with its own ads.
Pennsylvanians’ TV sets have been virtually empty of presidential ads for two months, while the candidates’ campaigns and outside groups that are spending money to influence the election have concentrated on other states, including Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
Pennsylvania is tied with Illinois for the nation’s fifth-biggest electoral prize in the presidential race and historically has been treated as a battleground state. But Obama, a Democrat, has held a persistent lead over Romney, a Republican, in most independent polls, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a margin of four to three.
Obama’s lead in Pennsylvania polls has tightened recently. He now has an edge of about 5 percentage points, according to the average of recent polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. Vice President Biden, who was born and raised in Scranton, scrapped plans to campaign in Pennsylvania on Thursday because of Sandy.
The latest poll from The Philadelphia Inquirer, which was published over the weekend, showed that the president’s lead in Pennsylvania had narrowed to 6 points from 8 points since the beginning of October.
In a memo released on Monday, Pennsylvania’s Obama campaign director, Bill Hyers, said Republicans have been unable to narrow Democrats’ voter registration advantage substantially or expand their base.
“Despite their electoral gains in 2010 and a yearlong (presidential) primary, Republicans have failed to make any meaningful headway in Pennsylvania,” Hyers said. “The state remains out of their reach.”
The pro-Romney group Restore Our Future plans to spend $2.1 million on ads in Pennsylvania starting on Tuesday. The Inquirer reported that $1.1 million was committed by the conservative group Americans for Job Security, which has aired TV ads elsewhere attacking Obama and supporting Romney and Republican congressional candidates.
Another group that has been advertising there is the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is airing an ad that features the founder of Home Depot, Bernie Marcus, criticizing Obama’s economic leadership.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said on Monday that the campaign would match Restore Our Future’s ad buy in Pennsylvania.
“We’re not gonna take anything for granted and make sure we’re doing what we need to do on the ground,” Messina said. “We’re (also) gonna go up in Pa. They understand they’re not gonna be able to win Ohio, so now they’re getting desperate.”
The election is Nov. 6.
Victory in Pennsylvania is probably more crucial to Obama than Romney. In 2008, Obama beat Republican John McCain by 10 percentage points in Pennsylvania, and the state has supported the Democrat in each presidential election since 1988.
Harry Truman in 1948 was the last Democratic presidential candidate to lose Pennsylvania but win election, while Republican George W. Bush lost Pennsylvania twice — in 2000 and 2004 — on his way to two terms as president.