VP hopeful Paul Ryan to speak at airport rally on Saturday
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will headline a rally on Saturday at Atlantic Aviation in Moon, marking the first visit to the region by a candidate from either party since August when he toured a steel plant in Carnegie.
Several independent polls show the race tightening in Pennsylvania, a one-time battleground state that many analysts had begun to dismiss.
“Absolutely Pennsylvania is a swing state,” said Gerald Shuster, political communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “The polls have been so cyclical, so varying — I think people are walking both sides, not sure where to go.”
Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman on the ticket with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, will speak at a hangar near Pittsburgh International Airport before heading to Belmont, Ohio, for a noon event at Valley View Campgrounds. Polls show Romney and President Obama tied in Ohio.
Democrats planned to counter with a news conference in advance of Ryan's visit. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and Allegheny County Labor Council President Jack Shea will assemble at the War Memorial Fountain in Moon to address “how Mitt Romney's ‘sketchy deal' for America would be disastrous for Pennsylvania's middle-class families,” the Obama campaign said.
Until now, the campaigns have largely ignored Pennsylvania, circulating instead in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Iowa.
Obama last came to Pittsburgh in July, for a rally at Carnegie Mellon University — a stark contrast to 17 visits he made to the state in 2008. He held a fundraiser at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in June.
Romney has visited the state six times, including a rally at Valley Forge in September and a July visit to Pittsburgh.
Gallup's daily tracking poll on Friday showed Romney's support among likely voters at 51 percent nationally, compared with 45 percent for Obama.
Republican state Chairman Rob Gleason is confident Romney will win Pennsylvania, citing an Oct. 11-13 survey of 1,376 likely voters that Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted for the party. It gave Romney a 4-point lead. The poll's error margin was 2.6 percentage points.
“We are winning here anyway without the ads or rallies,” Gleason said, though he acknowledged that candidate appearances can help. “It energizes people, but they are pulling ahead without those events.”
Other polls conducted in Pennsylvania in the past week showed the president losing ground but leading Romney.
“I feel confident that Obama is going to win Pennsylvania. I don't think that Mitt Romney has ever connected with voters here,” said Fitzgerald, who believes Obama will visit again if the race tightens even more. “Showing up is always good if things are getting close.”
Most pundits knocked Pennsylvania off the list of battleground states after post-convention polling. The last time a Republican won the state was George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Washington-based Republican strategist Alex Castellanos fondly refers to Pennsylvania as “fool's gold” for GOP presidential candidates.
Shuster believes either candidate has a shot a winning the state's 20 Electoral College votes.
“People are not overwhelmingly happy with Obama, and they don't trust Romney,” Shuster said. “They're trying to find a reason to support one candidate or another, and I don't think a lot of people have found that reason yet.”
The race here could be too close to call, Shuster said. “To choose the winner in this one, I'd have a better shot at winning the Mega Millions tonight. Ask me who's going to win on Tuesday, after the last debate.”
Chris Togneri also contributed to this report. Salena Zito is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com.