Today, the Obama campaign announced that, with the threat of the approaching Hurricane Sandy, Dr. Jill Biden was canceling scheduled events in Pennsylvania. But, they slipped something far more intriguing into their statement. The campaign reported that Vice-President Joe Biden would travel to the Keystone State on Thursday, attending “grass roots” events. If Biden is going to PA ahead of the final weekend of the campaign, it can only mean that Obama is increasingly worried about keeping the state in his column.
While most attention is given to campaign fundraising, the most precious resource a campaign has is time, and its most valuable commodity is the candidate. Where a campaign chooses to deploy its candidate speaks volumes about its priorities and concerns. There are a handful of states where the race is considered neck-and-neck. Pennsylvania isn’t one of them. If Biden is going to Pennsylvania, it means the campaign thinks the state could become very close.
The RCP average of polls in PA shows Obama with a 4 point lead. In all but one poll, however, he is under the 50% threshold. Also, in 2008, at this time Obama had a 10.8 point lead in the RCP average for Pennsylvania. So, his position in the state has definitely deteriorated.
Pennsylvania has often been a tease for Republicans. To win there, the party has to minimize its losses in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and run up the score everywhere else. Republican candidates for President have come close to winning Pennsylvania often, but haven’t won it since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Obama has to be considered to have the edge in the state. His approval ratings are more positive here than in the rest of the country. But, like Minnesota, Wisconsin and other previously “safe” states, they can no longer take it for granted. Biden’s trip to the state may be just an extra insurance policy, but it’s telling that they feel the need for it.
The hours Biden spends traveling to and campaigning in Pennsylvania can never be spent anywhere else. Time is running out. I doubt the Obama campaign ever thought they would have to spend precious time at the end shoring up the blue states. That is certainly change they don’t believe in.