Poor Pennsylvania. The one-time premier battleground state, accustomed to attracting so much attention and advertising money from presidential campaigns, is being treated like a has-been this year.
When the campaign went into high gear Friday after the close of the Democratic National Convention, Republican Mitt Romney's campaign announced it would run new ads in eight states, but none in Pennsylvania.
High-spending conservative groups Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads, who have poured $6.4 million into the state this year, pulled their planned post Labor Day spots. And the Republican's campaign has not advertised in the state since a short burst in early April that helped drive challenger Rick Santorum out of the GOP race.
Pennsylvania has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, but the state and its 20 electoral votes are still used to heavy flirtation by the GOP. Democratic candidates Al Gore and John Kerry won it with only 51 percent of the vote in 2000 and 2004, and Democrat Barack Obama lost the state's primary by 10 points in 2008 to Hillary Clinton, leading Republican nominee John McCain's campaign to invest heavily in Pennsylvania that fall.
He gave up contesting Michigan, visited Pennsylvania repeatedly through the last weeks of the campaign -- including stops on both sides of the state in the last two days before the election -- and still lost 54-44 percent to Mr. Obama.
Now it is Pennsylvania looking from the outside in. The main battleground states as of now -- and where the Romney campaign launched its latest ads -- are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. All voted for Mr. Obama four years ago, like Pennsylvania.
"The Romney folks, and the Dems, look to see where their money will move the most votes that result in winning that state," said GOP consultant and the Pennsylvania Business Council political director Chris Nicholas. Pennsylvania's "two biggest markets are expensive and take big bites out of ad budgets. They obviously think, for now, that the grass is greener in other states for TV ads."
When all polls of Pennsylvania are averaged together by Real Clear Politics, Mr. Obama has a 7.7 percentage point lead in the state. Their study of swing states -- like those kept by Politico and The Wall Street Journal -- consider Michigan and Wisconsin as having a better chance of voting for Mr. Romney in November.
Things can change and Pennsylvania's big cache of electoral votes, which are twice that of Wisconsin's, could make it a tempting battlefront again. Mr. Romney's forces had $197 million in cash at the end of July to Mr. Obama's $131 million, and Democrats including former Gov. Ed Rendell expect the Republican to pour it into advertising in later weeks of the campaign.
"Don't be fooled. ... I believe that they are laying a little bit of a trap for us," he said in address Thursday to fellow Pennsylvania Democrats in Charlotte, N.C. "They have so much money. If they decided to come in and blitz ... the last six or seven weeks ... all of a sudden it's within the margin of error."
The Romney-tied super PAC Restore Our Future has spent $4.1 million in Pennsylvania advertising through the end of August, according to data kept by the National Journal, while the Obama campaign and affiliated super PAC Priorities USA Action have spent $9 million. Both campaigns are implementing voter contact efforts, using sophisticated targeting techniques and social media, that can attract voters outside the TV eye.
The Romney-Ryan team has 23 offices across the state and contacted some 1.5 million voters.
"Polling has consistently showed apathy among Democrats and disapproval in President Obama and the path our nation is on in a state that President Obama won by double digits in 2008," Mr. Romney's Pennsylvania spokeswoman Kate Meriwether said. "Gov. Romney continues to campaign here with a vision to get our economy back on track."
The Obama campaign has 38 offices across the state and claimed in meetings at the DNC this week that it is seeking to reach voters even in rural parts of the state, not just the urban areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh where he ran up 2008 majorities.
The president's campaign declined to comment for this story.homepage - electionspresident
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at earlyreturns.sites.post-gazette.com or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.