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Romney Enters Pennsylvania, But Team Obama Shows Confidence

Ad spending data from the National Journal reveals that Team Romney will spend nearly $7 million on advertisements in Pennsylvania, representing 9 percent of Team Romney’s total spending this week, and trailing only Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. On Sunday night, Romney will campaign in critical Bucks County, a patchwork of working class inner suburbs bordering Philadelphia, affluent subdivisions, and outlying exurbs and farm country. While these efforts are smaller in scope than those in similarly sized Ohio, they are more than enough to constitute a meaningful push for the state.

In response, the Obama campaign is airing $2.7 million in advertisements. That’s a substantial investment, but it only represents 5 percent of Team Obama’s total spending and it is a smaller buy than every true battleground state, with the exception of marginally competitive North Carolina and the smallest battleground state of New Hampshire. And while Romney and Ryan will both visit Pennsylvania before the Election, neither Obama nor Biden are currently scheduled to visit the state. As a result, the campaign effort is more imbalanced in Pennsylvania than any other state.

Although Team Romney is outspending Team Obama everywhere, Team Obama has compensated by concentrating their spending in the most pivotal battlegrounds. The National Journal ad spending data suggests that Team Romney is only outspending Team Obama by ten percent or less in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Ohio, while Team Obama has sacrificed parity in New Hampshire, Florida, Iowa, and Nevada to stay close in the tipping point states. But the gap is greatest in Pennsylvania, where Team Romney is outspending Team Obama by 2.4 to 1. 

Given the truly game-changing potential of a Romney win in the Keystone State, these data suggest that the Obama campaign does not view the threat in Pennsylvania as especially serious, even if it’s sufficient to merit precautionary and defensive measures. This view happens to be consistent with the public polls, which show Obama ahead by an average of 4 points in Pennsylvania, with approximately 49 percent of the vote. That’s a comfortable lead, but it’s not tremendously different than Obama’s standing in Ohio or Wisconsin, where Obama’s probably ahead by a modest margin with around 49 percent of the vote. And from that perspective, the Romney campaign’s late push is eminently reasonable. If they’re heading to defeat in Ohio or Wisconsin and they are long past the point of diminishing returns in those two states, pouring money into Pennsylvania is a no risk, high upside move.

But absent a more vigorous effort by the Obama campaign or polls from higher quality pollsters than Susquehanna showing Obama endangered in Pennsylvania, it’s hard to judge the state as anything other than “lean Obama.” Although the state’s demographics tend to ensure a close race, they only provide a narrow path to victory for a national Republican without newfound appeal in the suburbs, since high black turnout can compensate for many losses among Kerry voters in western Pennsylvania. And although Romney will do better than McCain in the Philadelphia suburbs, it’s hard to see how Romney does much better than Bush in Montgomery or Chester Counties if he’s still fighting in states with well-educated, affluent populations that Bush won comfortably, like North Carolina, Colorado, and Virginia.

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