While some polls depict a tightening presidential race in Pennsylvania, neither campaign has shown signs of shifting into the kind of top-gear effort evident in nearby battlegrounds such as Ohio and Virginia.
On the eve of last night's debate, new surveys of the state depicted the same kind of momentum for Mitt Romney that he has experienced on a national level since his breakthrough performance in Denver. A Quinnipiac survey released Tuesday showed Mr. Romney trailing President Obama by just 4 points, 50 percent to 46 percent, suggesting a significantly more competitive race than the same survey found in September, when the Quinnipiac margin was 54 percent to 43 percent.
A Muhlenberg College survey conducted for the Allentown Call and released Monday showed very similar result, with Mr. Obama leading, 49 percent to 45 percent. A survey from the independent but Democratic-leaning firm, Public Policy Polling, showed a somewhat more comfortable lead for the president, 51 percent to 44 percent, and a Philadelphia Inquirer survey released last week found a similar, 8-point Democratic advantage.
In the days since the first debate, Mr. Romney's number have improved nationally as well as in most key battleground states -- a status once shared by Pennsylvania -- but the Republican still appears to have little margin for error in assembling the states needed for an electoral vote majority. The newer Pennsylvania results suggest that the state should be a tempting target to expand his electoral map. But, although Ann Romney campaigned in the state earlier in the week, there is little evidence so far to suggest that the Republican is placing much of a bet on Pennsylvania.
While media markets across battleground states are being deluged with ads, neither campaign is advertising on the Pennsylvania airwaves. Last week, the Romney teams sent some of its ground troops from Pennsylvania to Ohio. A Romney aide confirmed a report, first published in the Daily Beast, that Kate Meriwether, the Romney campaign's principal press spokeswoman, had been transferred to Virginia. The aide, insisted, however, that the shift was temporary.
Another figure with the GOP campaign said there was still time to reallocate resources in the state. "Pennsylvania is showing the same trends we're seeing all across the country and with over 90 percent of the vote still on the table on Election Day we'll be monitoring closely," the campaign aide said.
The Republican alluded to the fact that the vast majority of Pennsylvania voters cast their ballots on Election Day, in contrast to battleground states such as Florida and Ohio, where more liberal early voting regulations mean that upwards of a third of votes are cast before the official election date.
While acknowledging the lack of dollars on the airwaves so far, a Democratic campaign aide emphasized that the Obama forces had made a heavy commitment to their Pennsylvania ground game, with 64 separate offices across the state, more than twice the number of the Romney campaign.
In another worrisome finding for Democrats, the Quinnipiac and Muhlenberg surveys also agreed in depicting a Senate race in which Sen. Bob Casey was clinging to a lead over challenger Tom Smith that was within the polls' margins for error. Quinnipiac showed Mr. Casey leading 48 percent to 45 percent, while the Muhlenberg Morning Call survey showed the Democrat up 41 percent to 39 percent. Once again, however, the PPP fundings has somewhat better news for the incumbent, with Mr. Casey leading 51 percent to 44 percent.
In a release with their new results, Quinnipiac's Tim Malloy noted that Mr. Romney had made some of his biggest gains with Catholic voters. Despite the tepid reviews for his Denver performance, the president didn't suffer any real damage to his favorability ratings, which still top those of his challenger. But one real contrast with earlier surveys was that Pennsylvania voters had come around to a better view of Mr. Romney. In late September, 41 percent of Quinnipiac respondents said they had a favorable view of Mr. Romney, less than the 50 percent who had an unfavorable view. In the more recent interviews, his favorable responses finally edged ahead of unfavorable -- 46 percent to 44 percent.
Politics Editor James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562.