As President Barack Obama sought campaign cash in a state that rewarded him with a landslide four years ago — the Democrats’ fifth straight presidential win in Pennsylvania — Republican officials insisted that the state’s electoral votes were very much in play this year.
Mr. Obama was appearing at a series of fundraisers Tuesday in Center City Philadelphia, the core of a region that voted overwhelmingly for the Democrat in 2008, propelling him to a 54 percent to 44 percent statewide victory, the largest for a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 drubbing of Barry Goldwater.
In a conference call anticipating the campaign event, Republican officials, including state party chairman Robert Gleason, told reporters that they were increasingly optimistic that this year’s election would break the chain of Democratic presidential victories in the state.
Mocking the president’s quickly recanted observation last week that the private economy was “doing fine,” Mr. Gleason said, “I don’t know what world this president lives in, but thanks to Barack Obama Pennsylvanians are not doing fine.”
Mr. Gleason said as he argued that the troubled economy and an effective campaign strategy would break the Democratic streak.
Mr. Gleason said his confidence was bolstered by a new Quinnipiac University poll, released earlier Tuesday, that showed Mr. Romney with a somewhat smaller deficit than other recent surveys of the state. The survey found Mr. Obama with a 46 percent to 40 percent lead among Pennsylvania voters. That was a modest improvement for the Republican since the last Quinnipiac survey, in early May. A Franklin & Marshall College survey released last week found the incumbent with a more comfortable 12-point advantage over Mr. Romney.
“Mitt Romney is well within striking distance in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Gleason said.
“We have an authentic opportunity to deliver Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes,” he insisted.
Mr. Gleason argued that Mr. Romney is well positioned to appeal to suburban voters in the state’s southeast, a region that was once a GOP bastion but one that has trended Democratic in recent elections.
“I don’t think there is a better top of the ticket that I’d like to have,” said Rep. Jim Gerlach, a GOP veteran who represents some of those suburban communities. “He’s going to be able to pull a lot of soft Democrats over.”
Mr. Romney most recently campaigned in the state last month in an appearance at a West Philadelphia charter school. He is scheduled to return this weekend in a bus tour of smaller towns that will leave from New Hampshire.
While the Republican’s showing in the new Quinnipiac survey represented a modest uptick, what is perhaps more striking is how little fluctuation there has been in the university’s trial heat polls for the president and his challenger. In five surveys since late last year, Mr. Obama’s strength has registered steadily between 45 percent and 47 percent. The range of results for Mr. Romney in the school’s findings has been almost as narrow, with a high of 43 percent in December and a low of 39 percent in early May.
In the latest poll, both candidates held the support of 4 out of 5 of their own party members, with independents favoring Mr. Obama, 43 percent to 35 percent. The numbers showed a familiar gender divide, with men favoring Mr. Romney, 44 percent to 40 percent, and women going for Mr. Obama, 51 percent to 36 percent.
Mr. Obama enjoyed an advantage in how favorably he was viewed by the survey sample — another area in which the candidates’ numbers haven’t moved much in the five surveys Quinnipiac has released since December 2011. Forty-nine percent of those questioned said they had a favorable view of Mr. Obama, and 44 percent an unfavorable one. Mr. Romney was viewed favorably by just 35 percent of the registered voters while 42 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor.