Oct. 31–WASHINGTON — On the heels of a supportive super PAC doing the same, Mitt Romney’s campaign is buying commercial air time in Pennsylvania, expanding its reach for the closing days of the razor-thin presidential contest.
It will be the first time Romney has made a TV ad buy in the state. He canceled a major purchase ahead of the April primary, when Rick Santorum, his biggest competition, dropped out.
The new spot was tailor-made for Pennsylvania, blaming the Obama administration’s coal regulations for the closure of Pennsylvania coal plants.
Each candidate’s camp offers a different spin on the late ad buy. Romney’s team says momentum is making Democrat-leaning states like Pennsylvania competitive. Obama’s says the ad buy shows desperation because Romney’s path to the necessary 270 electoral votes is so narrow.
“This expansion of the electoral map demonstrates that Gov. Romney’s momentum has jumped containment from the usual target states and has spread to deeper blue states that [Obama's headquarters] never anticipated defending,” Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, wrote in a memo.
The Obama campaign responded with a quote from former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who has been warning for months that the Romney team could make a last-minute play for the state:
“Mitt Romney’s attempt to make a play for this state is more of a sign of desperation on his part than anything else,” Rendell said. “Mitt Romney ignored Pennsylvania over the course of the last two years and didn’t ask Pennsylvanians for their vote. A week of advertising won’t change that.”
On Monday, the super PAC backing Romney, Restore Our Future, as well as another GOP group, revealed they’d bought TV ad time in Pennsylvania.
The Obama campaign then announced it would be matching those buys. One of the ads in the Pennsylvania rotation is a softer, pro-Obama spot that highlights his goals for a second term and first-term achievements like the end of the Iraq War. Another one hits Romney on the percentage he pays in taxes compared to middle class families. “Mitt Romney’s middle class tax increase: he pays less, you pay more,” the ad says.
The new Romney ad’s specific focus on coal, rather than a more general economic message, is an effort to stir voters in southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania and therefore offset Obama’s Democratic advantage in the southeastern part of the state.
Jeff Brauer, political science professor at Keystone College in Scranton, said it’s a play for the white, blue-collar, male voters who are Democrats in Pennsylvania who have not warmed to Obama, but aren’t sold on Romney either.
“This entire election comes down to turnout,” Brauer said. “Those are folks that could just stay home, say there’s no good choice and may sit it out. Romney is going to take the opportunity to show he’s a legitimate choice.”
Still, Brauer said the Joe Biden factor plays big with those voters who can overlook their unease with Obama to support Biden, a Scranton native.
Despite the new ads, the top candidates are not scheduled to visit as of now. Biden was supposed to headline a rally in Scranton on Thursday, but canceled because of Hurricane Sandy. The campaigns are not saying whether Pennsylvania may be in line for last-minute stops.