Republicans Target Obama In Pennsylvania

Colby Itkowitz
Allentown Morning Call

New TV ad hits president on economy in key states.

Pennsylvania is one of four traditionally Democratic states being targeted by Republicans in a new TV ad using President Barack Obama’s own words from the 2008 campaign against him.

The one-minute spot shows Obama giving a speech in August 2008 about how Democrats measure progress. When Obama mentions people paying their mortgages, the ad flashes a foreclosure sign with the statistic “6 million more foreclosures.” Then, as Obama talks about Americans being able to put money away for their children’s college education, the ad shows more statistics: “$3.7 trillion added to national debt” and “2.1 million more unemployed.”

The Republican National Committee would not say where in Pennsylvania the ad is running, or what it cost the party.

With the 2012 presidential election 16 months away, and the number of Republican hopefuls growing, the race for the White House has a very long way to go. Yet the Republicans insist Pennsylvania is ground they can win.

“Republicans are serious about Pennsylvania,” said RNC chairman Reince Priebus. “We are serious about competing for Pennsylvania. We think that Pennsylvania will be red in 2012. I think [Obama] is going to be in big trouble in Pennsylvania, and I expect us to win there in 2012. It is a big prize, it is 20 electoral votes.”

Rick Wiley, the RNC’s political director, released a memo detailing why the GOP is targeting Pennsylvania, as well as Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin — states that all handily selected Obama just under three years ago. Wiley wrote that “recent polling in these states, and overwhelming GOP victories in 2010, shows Obama isn’t just weaker than he was in 2008, but he is in real danger of losing electoral votes.”

Recent surveys of Pennsylvania voters find Obama’s approval rating hovering in the mid-to-high 40 percent range. A mid-June poll by Quinnipiac University showed as many state voters approve of the way Obama’s handling his job as oppose it. The split was 48-48.

G. Terry Madonna, a political pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, said Obama has reason for concern over these early numbers in Pennsylvania. If a president’s approval falls below 45 percent, he has a 20 percent chance of re-election, Madonna said.

“You can’t be in those low 40s or you’re in real trouble,” he said. “His job performance is fairly weak and that gives Republicans some hope. … There isn’t any doubt that Pennsylvania is in play, and that’s one of the reasons why the Republicans are doing what they’re doing.”

While Obama’s polling is poor, he raised $86 million nationwide in the second quarter of this year. And his campaign boasted of 260,000 new donors who didn’t contribute in 2008.

Jim Burn, chairman of the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania, said the party’s message to voters will be that the U.S. economy would be much worse if not for Obama’s policies. Burn said Republicans prey on the fears of people in crisis — a crisis that Burn said the Republicans created.

Burn agreed Pennsylvania will be a battleground state.

“It will be make or break in the commonwealth,” said Burn, who called it “the marquee battleground state in 2012.”

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