CLIPS: Now, it’s all about winning Pennsylvania (11/04/08)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

No more punditry, no more polls, no more advertisements and no more robocalls.

Today it’s finally out of everyone else’s hands, and into your own.

We’ll know tonight whether Pennsylvania was the state that tipped the election, or whether strategists will second-guess those dozens of visits that candidates paid to our state.

We’ll know tonight whether the frantic push by Sen. John McCain to court the midstate will dilute Sen. Barack Obama ‘s edge in Philadelphia and trigger a pundit-defying victory.

We’ll know tonight if we’ll have the first black president or the first female vice president in American history.

Unless, of course, there are lawsuits and recounts. Then we’ll wait longer.

No matter what happens, Pennsylvania stands to be at the center of it all, and analysts say McCain probably can’t win without it.

“This has become ground zero,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs. “It’s become the battle at the OK Corral. This is it. It’s all about winning Pennsylvania, or I don’t think McCain can win the presidency.”

To McCain, the midstate might be the ground zero of ground zero. If he’s going to win the state’s crucial 21 electoral votes, he needs strong turnout from this heavily Republican area.

From Oct. 21 to 28, McCain aired more ads in Harrisburg than anywhere else in the state and in all but six cities around the country, according to the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project.

And while Obama hasn’t visited the Harrisburg/Hershey area since the primary season, McCain has made two visits in the past two weeks. GOP running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also stopped in Dauphin Borough on Friday night to take her daughter trick-or-treating.

All of McCain’s campaigning in the state appears to have tightened the state polls, as a Real Clear Politics average of polls has dropped Obama ‘s lead from 11 percentage points on Oct. 21 to 7.6 points on Monday.

“I think that’s impressive, given that they’re going into one heck of a head wind in Pennsylvania,” said Christopher Borick, a pollster at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

That said, Borick said he would be very surprised if McCain wins Pennsylvania.

“Their effort has been incredible, but I see so many things that are going against them in winning Pennsylvania,” Borick said.

That includes a 1.2 million voter registration edge for Democrats.

Obama has spent twice as much as McCain on advertising in Pennsylvania and boasts a stronger grass-roots network. Many homeowners in the Harrisburg area last weekend found door hangers with instructions for first-time voters and personalized information on the location of their polling places.

A day before the election in 2004, Real Clear Politics showed Democratic Sen. John Kerry with a lead of about 1 percentage point in Pennsylvania. Kerry ended up winning 51 percent to 49 percent.

Though a lot of signs point to an Obama victory in Pennsylvania, no one — in the campaigns or among the pollsters — dare pronounce it over until the voters have their say.

“This is such a strange election,” Madonna said, “and we’ve all been flummoxed before on a number of occasions.”

DANIEL VICTOR : 255-8144 or dvictor@patriot-news.com

INFOBOX:

Days spent in Pennsylvania since June: John McCain: 25, Barack Obama : 9

Money spent in Pa. on advertising from Oct. 21 to 28: John McCain: $1,388,000, Barack Obama: $2,742,000

Pa’s registered voters: Republicans: 3,243,391 Democrats: 4,480,691

Sources: The Associated Press, University of Wisconsin Advertising Project

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