John McCain trails Barack Obama by an average of 13.8% in Pennsylvania. Democratic voter registration has jumped by half a million, and they now enjoy a 1.2 million voter edge in the state. Obama is outspending McCain by millions of dollars here, yet the McCain campaign vows to fight on in a state that they have little chance of winning.
According to an article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the McCain strategy is to deliver a conservative message in the state aimed at older, more conservative, white Democrats. An example of this socially conservative message was Sarah Palin’s remarks in Johnstown attacking Barack Obama on abortion, “I listened when he defended his unconditional support for unlimited abortions. He said that a woman shouldn’t have to be – quote – “punished with a baby.” He said that right here in Johnstown –“punished with a baby” – and it’s about time we called him on it. The more I hear from Senator Obama, the more I understand why he is so vague and evasive on the subject.”
Putting aside for a moment that the fact that the only true thing in Palin’s statement was the fact that Barack Obama was in Johnstown, her comments are a perfect example of why national Republicans don’t understand Pennsylvania. Palin was delivering her remarks in city that has economically struggled for almost 30 years. The campaign discussion in this state begins and ends with the economy and jobs. Republicans in the state don’t run on socially conservative issues, because these issues aren’t what decide elections.
A strictly socially conservative message does not connect with voters in the state, if you don’t believe me, ask former Sen. Rick Santorum. Even the state’s Republicans run on the economy and jobs. Republican Rep. Bill Shuster is running for reelection on a platform that distances himself from his own party, and promises more jobs for the state. The socially conservative message never plays well here. Pennsylvania isn’t really a toss up state. It is moving towards being solid blue. If Obama wins, 2008 will be the sixth straight presidential election in which it has gone Democratic. This isn’t my definition of a toss up state.
When the McCain campaign pulled out of Michigan, they said that they are staying in Pennsylvania, because it looks better for them than Michigan did, which makes me wonder how much will McCain lose Michigan by? There are very few good spots left on the map for McCain, but Ohio is still a toss up. Obama only has a small lead in the Buckeye state, and if McCain loses Ohio, he loses the election, so McCain should probably be spending his resources in Ohio, not wasting them in Pennsylvania. Even if the Pennsylvania polls are a little inflated, no one should be surprised if Obama carries the state by at least 7-9 points.