Strategy Lesson: The fight for Pennsylvania

I think the unfolding political fight is Pennsylvania will certainly be interesting to watch … and, possibly will be enshrined as a strategy “teaching moment”.

First, a disclaimer … the underlying logic for this case comes from Dick Morris … he’s a hard right partisan with a grudge against the Clintons and a penchant for newsworthy predictions – many of which are airballs.  So, I usually take him with a grain of salt.

That said, I think he may have something here:

Obama’s Pennsylvania Blunder

There are many reasons why Obama will lose this election — by a lot — on Tuesday.

But when the history of this contest is written, it will be especially important to probe why Obama blundered by virtually ignoring Pennsylvania.

Team Obama was so focused on the swing states that they ignored the semi-swing states which could come into play.  Ohio, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Nevada loomed so large in their calculations that they forgot about Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Adopting an all-or-nothing approach, Obama advertised heavily in the swing states and not at all in the semi-swing states of the Midwest. 

The Detroit, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis media markets — and all the smaller cities in between got no Obama advertising.

Obama took care to irradiate the swing states with his negative attacks on Romney. 

When the voters in those states saw that Mitt was not a Halloween monster but a pretty nice and reasonable guy, his negative stopped working and the states started falling to Romney.

But in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, the negatives on Romney never ran. 

The only Romney they saw in these states was the very presentable and attractive one who showed up in the debates.  So there was no obstacle to hold them back from voting for Mitt.

Obama’s static dependence on the swing states to constitute a firewall backfired. 

The firewall became like the French Maginot Line of 1940, easily outflanked

When Romney began to buy ads in the semi-swing states, Obama was slow to respond.

Initially, his campaign dismissed Romney’s ads in Pennsylvania as a bluff intended to draw Obama’s resources away from Ohio.

But it was no bluff.  Romney’s people realized that 20 votes in Pennsylvania were as good as 18 in Ohio.

And, in this final week, Romney’s campaign and its allied groups are spending $11 million on Pennsylvania ads as opposed to only $2 million for Obama.

Most polls show Obama leading in PA by at least a couple of points.

But, Romney’s internal campaign polls show the race well within the margin of error.

And, they’ve got a couple of strong targeted messages (coal, gun rights) … without the burden of the auto bailout debate.

That’s why Mitt is doing a closing campaign event in Philly on Sunday.

No way, Team Obama could have expected that.

Whereas Mitt has plenty of $$$ to throw at PA, Obama is more limited … each dollar that goes to PA comes out of a swing state.  in the vernacular, Team O blew their wad early in the campaign … not much dry powder left.

And, add Hurricane Sandy to the mix.

Conventional wisdom is that Dems are more fair-weather voters that Republicans.

If folks in Philly’s center city don’t get to the polls, Romney’s gambit may play out.

We’ll see.

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