Obama, Romney have bypassed Pennsylvania in advertising war -- until now

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The presidential ad war is finally coming to Pennsylvania, one week before the election.

The super-PAC Restore Our Future, tied to Mitt Romney, announced a roughly $2 million statewide advertising buy Monday, and the Barack Obama campaign countered, saying it would battle back with its own spots.

"We are going to win Pennsylvania, but we're not taking anything for granted, which is what good campaigns do," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a conference call with reporters.

Pennsylvania has not been the key presidential battleground it has been in years past, which is partially reflected in the lack of network television advertising: Through last week, the Obama and Romney campaigns spent $100 million in Ohio compared with just $5 million next door in Pennsylvania.

Most recent polls have shown the Democratic incumbent leading his Republican challenger by about 5 percentage points in the state, which has a tantalizing 20 electoral votes at stake.

Mr. Obama's senior political strategist argued the GOP forces are trying for Pennsylvania only because they are losing in Ohio and elsewhere.

"Make no mistake, this isn't a sign of strength on their part, it's a sign of weakness," strategist David Axelrod said. "They're looking for a way out."

In addition to the Restore Our Future ads, conservative super-PAC Americans for Job Security also is reserving about $1 million in ad time attacking Mr. Obama in the pricey Philadelphia market.

Rich Beeson, political director for the Romney campaign, said, "The Obama campaign continued with their desperate and flailing spin in an attempt to explain why suddenly states that were never considered in play are up for grabs. We've said all along this election is a choice between the status quo and real change -- change that offers promise that the future will be better than the past."

Vice President Joe Biden was supposed to bring the Democratic campaign back to the state Thursday, but Hurricane Sandy caused cancellation of a visit to his hometown of Scranton. Republicans argued the planned appearance showed the Obama campaign is worried about its hold on the state and that, in a sign of GOP enthusiasm, far more Republicans than Democrats were submitting absentee ballots this fall.

Democrats countered that they have registered almost twice as many new voters this year as the GOP, increasing their registration advantage to 1.12 million voters statewide and that most Pennsylvanians vote on Election Day, not via absentee ballots.

The Obama campaign also has an edge in grass-roots infrastructure, with 54 campaign offices statewide to 24 for the Romney team.

Mr. Obama's main power in the state comes in the Philadelphia region, which is squarely in the hurricane path. Mr. Messina said the campaign is focused on supporting public safety measures across states affected by the storm but will have enough voter turnout procedures in place in impacted areas to get their voters to the polls next week.

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Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at earlyreturns.sites.post-gazette.com or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.


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