HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania is returning to the presidential campaign advertising map, as Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama are launching statewide TV ads this week in the traditional battleground state that nevertheless has been ignored lately.
A Romney ad announced Tuesday showed footage of him chastising the president at a debate over Obama's policies toward coal during his time in office. Two Obama ads set to run in Pennsylvania include one where the president speaks directly to the camera about his goals for another term, and another that attacks Romney's tax plans as favoring the wealthy over the middle class.
The campaigns are in a war of words over whether Pennsylvania is winnable by a Republican. Pennsylvania, which is tied for the fifth-most electoral votes in the nation, has supported the Democrat for president in every election since 1988.
This is the first time Romney's campaign has aired TV ads in Pennsylvania since April. The Obama campaign and pro-Romney groups such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity spent millions of dollars over the summer on TV ads in Pennsylvania, but those ads largely disappeared from the state in August amid polling that persistently favored Obama.
Independent polls still favor Obama in Pennsylvania, but the gap has narrowed to a handful of percentage points and the campaigns have millions of dollars to spend in the final week before Tuesday's election.
G. Terry Madonna, a professor of public affairs and pollster at Franklin and Marshall College, called Pennsylvania the "default state" for Romney if he doesn't win Ohio, another valuable battleground state that carries 18 electoral votes and is closely contested.
"They've outraised their ability to spend money in (other) battleground states, so why not when the state ... gets this close, why not try to win Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes?" Madonna said.
Should Obama win Ohio and Pennsylvania, Romney will need to win most of the remaining battleground states, including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin. Should Romney win Ohio and Pennsylvania, "it's game over," Madonna said.
Obama hasn't visited Pennsylvania since June, and Romney has visited once since July.
The editorial boards of two of Pennsylvania's largest newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have endorsed Obama, while the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has endorsed Romney.
The ads by Romney and Obama follow more than $3 million in ads committed in Pennsylvania by two pro-Romney groups, Restore Our Future and the conservative group Americans for Job Security.
Victory in Pennsylvania is probably more crucial to Obama than Romney. Harry Truman in 1948 was the last Democratic presidential candidate to lose Pennsylvania but win the election, while Republican George W. Bush lost Pennsylvania twice — in 2000 and 2004 — on his way to two terms as president.