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Yes, Pennsylvania Is Still a Swing State

The past month has seen the momentum of the 2012 presidential election shift significantly. The national race is now in a virtual dead heat, and most key swing states are within the margin of error. And most important, it appears that Mitt Romney has expanded the playing field to include some states previously thought to be securely in President Obama’s column—including, in my view, Pennsylvania.

I base these conclusions on an analysis of surveys conducted since the beginning of June. Here’s what they show. (When there are multiple surveys, as there are in most cases, these figures represent averages.)

  Obama Romney Obama Margin Obama 2008 Margin
National 45.2 44.7 0.5 7.3
Nevada 48 42 6 15.5
Colorado 46.5 45.5 1.0 9.0
Iowa 46 47 (1) 9.5
Wisconsin 46.0 45.0 1.0 13.9
Ohio 45 48 (3) 4.6
Virginia 47.7 45.0 2.7 6.3
North Carolina 46 48 (2) 0.3
Florida 47.5 47.5 -- 2.8

Wisconsin is an unexpected addition to the list. It’s hard, though, to think of a state whose politics are more volatile this year. The most recent presidential surveys may reflect the extraordinary Republican mobilization that kept Scott Walker in the governor’s mansion, and these passions may cool. Or they may not.

In my view, which I first ventured last month, it makes sense to consider adding Pennsylvania to the list, even though Obama carried it by more than 10 points in 2008. The latest Quinnipiac survey gives the president a 6-point edge (46-40), but his support remains well below 50 percent, as it has in most previous surveys for the past six months. Obama’s job approval among Pennsylvanians stands at only 46, versus 49 percent who disapprove of his performance as president. Forty-eight percent think he deserves to be reelected, while 47 percent do not. And 56 percent are dissatisfied with the way things are going in their state, versus 43 percent who are satisfied.

At this point, the odds still favor an Obama victory in Pennsylvania this November. But the evidence suggests that Romney has a shot in the state—and Romney himself seems to think so. It’s no accident that the Romney bus tour goes through Pennsylvania. Keystone State voters can expect to see a lot more of him this summer, and their final verdict could be a game-changer.