VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, whose bid for the Republican presidential nomination earlier this year nearly derailed Mitt Romney's candidacy, said Sunday he believes Romney can win the Keystone State.
"Pennsylvania is absolutely in play," said Santorum, who represented the state in the Senate for 12 years.
Romney's campaign and an array of outside political groups have increased their focus on the 20 electoral votes held by traditionally Democratic Pennsylvania and Romney made a last-minute visit there Sunday. That strategy prompted President Obama's campaign to shift resources to the state, even though Pennsylvania hasn't voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1988.
Romney has not had a lead in a Pennsylvania poll this fall, though one late October survey had him tied with Obama. Most polls show Obama leading by 3 to 6 percentage points.
But Santorum sees Pennsylvania as a chance to remake the electoral map because it, unlike many other battleground states, doesn't have statewide early voting.
"Ninety-seven percent of the people haven't voted yet," Santorum said. "When you're spending money in Pennsylvania, you're getting a lot of lead on the target as opposed to here."
Because they haven't voted yet, Pennsylvania voters could see Romney's surge in recent weeks, he said.
"A lot of folks are saying the momentum is clearly in the last month been with Gov. Romney, and if you're an early voting state, that may not necessarily have been picked up," Santorum said. "All that momentum is going to be reflected in Pennsylvania."
Romney's visit to the Philadelphia suburbs Sunday marked his first trip to Pennsylvania this fall. Obama is not planning to visit before Election Day.
The president's campaign aides, though, have dismissed Romney's sudden charge for Pennsylvania as an act of desperation.
In an appearance on ABC News' "This Week," Obama advisor David Plouffe described Romney's Pennsylvania play as "a desperate ploy at the end of a campaign."