Clout: Is Pa. more bird in a mine than battleground state for Obama & foes?

Obama tries the lemon water ice at John's in South Philly, with U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah at his side.
Obama tries the lemon water ice at John's in South Philly, with U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah at his side. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff photographer)
Posted: July 01, 2011

PRESIDENTIAL elections are loaded with warfare analogies. So Pennsylvania is often referred to as a "battleground state."

We got a preview of that fight yesterday when President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney visited Philadelphia to raise cash and schmooze voters.

But is the Keystone State less of a battleground and more like a bluebird in the coal mine as Obama seeks a second term? Democrats have a 1.1 million voter-registration edge on Republicans here, Obama won this state by 10.4 percentage points in 2008 and a Republican nominee for president has not won here in two decades.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, says Pennsylvania will be a battleground only if Obama is "in deep trouble" with voters next year.

And trouble here, Sabato added, will signal bigger problems for Obama in swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and Florida.

"If it's really close in Pennsylvania, that tells you he's probably going to lose," Sabato said.

Obama was in town for two campaign fundraisers. Tickets for an afternoon event ranged from $100 to $2,500 and drew about 800 people. That was followed by a smaller affair at the Chestnut Hill home of David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast. Tickets there ranged from $10,000 to $35,800.

Obama was expected to collect about $2.5 million from the Philly events, splitting it between his campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Romney, the early Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination next year, was here for breakfast and luncheon campaign fundraisers. He was looking for a haul of about $500,000.

The timing was no coincidence. Yesterday was the closing day for July quarterly campaign-finance reports, which will be released on July 15. Romney, anticipated to have the early GOP fundraising lead in cash, may hope to splash some of his party's lesser candidates out of the pool with a massive cash cannonball.

A Quinnipiac University poll two weeks ago had Obama leading Romney 47-40 percent in Pennsylvania. That poll found voters split on Obama's performance as president, with 48 percent approving and disapproving.

"It's a state he needs to carry," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "It's also a state where he can raise money. It historically has been a swing state. Lately it's been trending more Democratic."

Former Gov. Ed Rendell had a curious take yesterday on the state's role in next year's election. He declared Pennsylvania "wide open" while also saying it is a "fool's errand" to make political prognostications 18 months in advance of an election. "Nobody should take it for granted," Rendell predicted for Pennsylvania. "It's going to be a tough fight."

Obama on the Philly stump

The president played to his base, touting his economic policies at home and his drawdown of the wars abroad while conceding several times that he has not accomplished his goals so far. He also derided Republicans for pushing tax breaks for the wealthy while targeting programs to help the middle class.

"It's time to start rebuilding here at home, time for nation-building right here," he said, predicting a long slog of GOP attacks. "They won't have a plan, but they'll attack. And I understand that. That's politics as we have come to know it."

Obama was twice interrupted by a small group from ACT UP, who shouted for him to stick to a pledge on funding for AIDS treatment. The crowd drowned them out the second time, chanting Obama's name while pulling down their small protest signs.

Hail to the campaigner-in-chief

The Republican National Committee knocked Obama yesterday for raising money here, while not mentioning the checks being collected by Romney. One phrase, used here and when Obama visited Pittsburgh last week, caught our ear: "campaigner-in-chief."

Sound familiar? Reporters, pundits, political pals and foes have applied that moniker to presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. The earliest reference we could find for the phrase was an Associated Press story from the 1980 Democratic primary battle between President Jimmy Carter and U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

We asked RNC spokesman Ryan Tronovitch if he thought it had been accurate to describe Bush during his 2004 bid for a second term as campaigner-in-chief, as many did that year.

"If Bush was the original "campaigner-in-chief," then Obama would have to be the "campaigner-in-chief on steroids," Tronovitch responded.

Quotable:

"It's a cheap shot. The fact that it closed had nothing to do with the president's policies."

- Ed Rendell, describing Mitt Romney's visit yesterday at a recently closed factory in Allentown that Obama visited in 2009 while stumping for his stimulus plan.

Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email

brennac@phillynews.com.

Check out the Clout blog at:

www.phillyclout.com.


Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail phillyclout@phillynews.com.

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