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Winning Pennsylvania

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pennsylvania-county-map.gifTwo weeks ago in this location, I wrote that Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate effectively ended his chances of winning Pennsylvania.

The reason: Ryan is a base candidate - who will thrill and delight conservative Republicans - but he does nothing to help Romney reach independent and moderate voters and disaffected Democrats.

That has proven true nationally, where the addition of the ultra-conservative Wisconsin congressman has done nothing to give Romney a bounce in the polls.

It is true locally, where the addition of Ryan to the ticket has had no perceivable effect on Romney's chances in Pennsylvania.  Separate polls, taken for the Inquirer and by Muhlenberg College shows President Obama winning the state by nine points if the election were held today.

Of course, there's the rub.  Today is August 27.  The election isn't until November 6.

The Republicans have 10 weeks to change the trajectory of the campaign and convince the unconvinced voters to swing to the Romney/Ryan team.

It ain't gonna happen.

When it comes to Pennsylvania, Romney has not one but two Achilles heels: female voters and voters in the five-county Philadelphia area.  He cannot win the state unless he makes headway with both and it is unlikely he has the time and money to do it.

Begin with women.  In 2008, they were enthusiastic Obama voters.  CNN exit polls taken in Pennsylvania and Election Day showed him winning the female vote 59% to John McCain's 41%  (Obama also won the male vote 51%-41%.)

According to the latest polls, Obama's edge among women has slipped a bit: In the Inquirer poll, 55% of the women said they would vote for Obama, compared to 39% for Romney.  Six percent were listed as undecided. 

It wouldn't take much for Obama to capture most of those undecideds and get close to his 2008 margin among women.

It wouldn't take much for Obama to capture most of those undecideds and get close to his 2008 margin among women.

I won't probe into all the reasons why women remain so enamored of the President, but clearly the bizarre debate on the right over abortion hasn't helped. The whole tone and tenor of the Republican primary came down to a bunch of guys yelling: " We want control of your uterus and we want it now!" Not a good thing, even among women who see shades of gray on the issue of reproductive rights.

On the other heel, we have Philadelphia and the four suburban counties. The Inquirer poll shows Obama winning this region by a margin of 59% to 34% for Romney, with eight percent undecided.

Again, this snapshot of voter preferences shows a drop off of support from 2008, when Obama defeated McCain by a margin of 33 points in the five-county area. (In 2008, it was Obama 66% versus 33% for McCain.) You can see details here.

Let's project that onto Election Day and say that Obama and Romney split the difference on the eight percent of voters who said they were undecided. If that is the case, Obama beats Romney 63%-38% in the Philly region.

Since one-third of the state's voters live in the five-county area it will be hard to overcome the margin the Obama ticket will build up in the southeast on Nov. 6th.

Add it up and what does it say? Obama will not win Pennsylvania by the 11-point blowout of 2008. There will be slippage. But winning by six to eight points is still a comfortable margin. (In fact, winning by one point is enough to swing the state's electoral vote to the Democratic ticket.)

Will the new Voter ID law put a dent in Obama's margin? It sure will. I once estimated that the new law could trim 150,000 off Obama's margin statewide - the equivalent of two to three percentage points.

Now I am not so sure. There has been a lot of grassroots anger over the new law - and not just in the big cities. Rural voters have horror stories they can tell about how hard it is trying to get an photo ID card at their local PennDOT office.

In Philadelphia, where there is widespread hostility about the racial undertones of the law, this may translate into a wink-wink-nudge-nudge "enforcement" of it at polling places, a possibility that has had proponents of the law sputtering with anger over such blatant lawbreaking.

But, let's look at it this way: You are a poll worker manning the polls in your division on Election Day. Old Mrs. Migatz, who has voted at the same polling place for 40 years, toddles in and says: "You mean I have to have a photo ID! I didn't know that! Does that mean I can't vote?"

What would you say?

Option 1: You cannot vote today, Mrs. Migatz. You have to file a provisional ballot and you have five days to produce a valid ID.

Option 2: Joe, Mrs. Migatz is here to vote. Would you hold the curtain open for her.

Given that she is a woman and lives in Philly, my bet is that is an Obama vote.

 

-- Tom Ferrick

 

 

To read more commentary and political analysis visit Metropolis, the in-depth news and information site based in Philadelphia.

 

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