Should Democrats worry about Pennsylvania?

Updated
By Versha Sharma
Joe Scarborough with a sample 'stache and David Axelrod without his trademark Chevron mustache
Joe Scarborough with a sample 'stache and David Axelrod without his trademark Chevron mustache

Should Democrats be worried about Romney’s last-minute bid for Pennsylvania? The GOP candidate has been running TV ads in the Keystone State, which had long been considered relatively safe for President Obama, and made a campaign stop there Sunday.

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod doesn’t sound worried. Last week on msnbc’s Morning Joe, he pledged to shave his famous mustache should Romney win, and today on Fox News he told host Chris Wallace: “The next time we see each other…I guarantee that mustache will be right where it is today.”

Axelrod insisted the push for Pennsylvania is only happening because other “battleground states on which [the Obama campaign] has been focusing are not working out for them.” Indeed, recent polling suggests Obama has an edge in Ohio and even Virginia.

“They’re behind and they’re not catching up,” he said.

Romney campaign political director Rich Beeson countered on Fox News that the campaign’s move into the swing state is similar to Obama’s move to traditionally-red  Indiana shortly before the 2008 election. Obama won Indiana that year by a 1.0% margin.

Still, poll numbers back up Axelrod, not Beeson. A new poll out Sunday shows that Obama’s lead has dropped to 3 points, but the polling average run by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver shows the president leading by 4.5 points. Silver lists Pennsylvania as “safe” for Obama.

Nonetheless, Silver doesn’t think Romney’s last-minute effort there is a bad idea. He writes:

Is Mr. Romney likely to flip enough votes in Pennsylvania to win? Probably not. Pennsylvania has historically had quite accurate polling, with the final polling average missing the eventual margin there by just one percentage point on average between 1996 and 2008. It is also a relatively “inelastic” state, meaning that there are relatively few swing voters who make up their minds at the last minute — perhaps part of the reason that the polling has normally been accurate.

Given the number of unappealing options for Mr. Romney, however, it may be worth a try. Pennsylvania still ranks seventh on the FiveThirtyEight list of tipping-point states — and that is without considering the mechanics of early voting. Pennsylvania has little early voting, meaning that a larger share of the vote there is still in play.

Should Democrats worry about Pennsylvania?

Updated