Romney In Southeastern Pa. For Money And Votes

Allentown Morning Call

When state Republican Chairman Rob Gleason sees Mitt Romney Friday morning at aPhiladelphia fundraiser, he’ll advise the presidential candidate to make a play for Pennsylvania.

“We really understand our electorate, and governor, you are in the position to win Pennsylvania,” Gleason intends to tell Romney. “But you will need to close the deal.”

Pennsylvania Republicans have tried to keep alive hopes of a Romney win in the state, even as the national campaign has all but written off such a possibility. The state party faithful know a win is off the table if Romney doesn’t spend time campaigning.

The breakfast fundraiser in Philadelphia was on the books for at least several weeks; Romney added a last-minute public rally at Valley Forge Military Academy. It could be an effort to throw a bone to the people working hard for him in the state, or a hint that there is a new reading of the tea leaves.

Romney’s last visit was in July near Pittsburgh. Neither his campaign nor President Barack Obama’s is spending a dime on television in Pennsylvania. And a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College state poll puts the race at a 7-percentage-point advantage for Obama, down from 10 points in August.

The conventional wisdom remains that Romney will lose Pennsylvania, like every GOP candidate since George H.W. Bush, who won the state in 1988. But state Republicans argue he should invest some of the precious time left until Election Day and at least try.

The push comes as Republicans in Pennsylvania and beyond look to Wednesday’s first presidential debate as a potential game-changer for the Romney camp, which has seen several tough weeks since the national conventions.

Romney’s southeastern Pennsylvania stop is in a bellwether region thick with the suburban swing voters who overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008. Some see the stop as a trial run on whether Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes are worth pursuing.

It comes after a fundraiser at the Union League just south of City Hall in Philadelphia that is expected to net the campaign $3.5 million or more.

Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg GOP consultant who worked on Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, is not surprised that the Romney camp scheduled a public event in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“In a sense, Mitt Romney is tailor-made for that constituency,” Gerow said. “Likability is a key factor. … He has to be comfortable and come across as comfortable. He has to let people see a little more of him. He has to relate in real ways. The southeast [part of the state] is a sophisticated electorate … .”

Lara Brown, a political science professor at Villanova University, considers it unlikely that the Philadelphia suburbs would swing for Romney, but she thinks he can make the race competitive and force Obama’s hand.

“What campaigns are doing is, they’re not trying to win, but they’re trying to throw their opponent off,” she said. “At some level [Romney’s camp] might want to spend a little time here, make it look like they know something the Obama team doesn’t.”

To be sure, Romney has staff and offices in Pennsylvania and a well-constructed ground operation in place, but nothing draws like the candidate himself.

Bruce Haynes, a Washington GOP media consultant, suggested that the Romney campaign may be seeing a shift in the electoral map and sensing opportunities to peel away votes in the eastern part of the state, so “they’ll go in and launch that missile and see if it finds a target.”

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Republicans continue their push. Gleason said the state party is going on television this week in western Pennsylvania with a pro-Romney commercial.

Bob Asher, a national Republican committeeman fromMontgomery County and close to the national Romney team, saidAnn Romney is planning a trip to Pennsylvania in October. One of the Romney sons is planning to tailgate at the Philadelphia Eagles game on Sunday.

“We are definitely poised to win Pennsylvania,” Asher said. “It all proves that we have not written off the state.”

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