Election Day Dispatches

Why No Democrat Is Worried About Losing Pennsylvania
Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Nov. 6 2012 12:36 PM

Election Day Dispatches

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Why no Democrat is worried about losing Pennsylvania.

155341909

Justin Sullivan/Getty.

Regards from Philadelphia.

I don't know any Democrats here that are worried about losing Pennsylvania to Mitt Romney. That's in large part because—far more than Ohio, with which it is often paired—Pennsylvania has become a state that Democrats think they can win on mobilization alone. Any scenario for Romney to win Pennsylvania has to be predicated on the assumption that Obama will fail to mobilize black voters even at the levels John Kerry did. So it's a nice little synecdoche for the turnout assumptions that seem to have guided Romney's strategy all year and that sustain the disbelief Republicans who see his internal polls have about the public polls showing Obama leading just about everywhere.

Late moves by Romney and his allies to get on TV here seem like they may be evidence of what I think of as supply-side campaigning. Available spending opportunities narrow in the final days of a campaign: Several weeks before election day is too late to open and equip field offices, hire and train staff. A week out it is too late to print new direct mail and get it into the system. One reason robocalls remain persistent in our political culture, even though there's good evidence they're ineffective, is that when you get to the final weekend there's nothing else to spend money on.

The Romney campaign has had unpredictable cash flow, and like the Obama campaign, is making a lot of spending decisions not based on tactical acumen or a broader strategy but a need to spend it all by the close of business. (Remember that Kerry squirreled away millions in 2004 in anticipation of a recount, and has been mocked for it ever since. Seemed prudent to me!) Obama has produced early-vote Frisbees distributed on Ohio college campuses; Romney has purchased TV ads in states where he barely invested a dollar until last week.

Why Pennsylvania? There's inventory available on local stations because the campaigns and outside groups have treated the state as a foregone conclusion for months, and the Senate race turned out to be a dud. So unlike in the other battlegrounds, you can still buy last-minute TV time in Pennsylvania. I'll be keeping my 215 number on in the hopes of catching a robocall or two.

Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 5:19 PM Social Outcasts Republican candidates are retreating from debates on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 5:47 PM California Gov. Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrant for Police Surveillance Drones
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.