The Question Is Not Whether PA Is In Play, But Why It Is

National Review’s Jay Cost provides an excellent analysis of why Mitt Romney feels he has a legitimate chance to carry Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral votes tomorrow.

It all comes down to Philadelphia, and whether Barack Obama hit the vote ceiling in 2008 considering the county’s stagnant population.  If they did, growth in Republican identification in the rest of the state along with dampened Democrat enthusiasm could mean a Romney victory here.

In the end, the goal would be to improve upon Bush’s margins in the state minus Philadelphia County. Bush netted 270,000 votes in all; given the increase in population in the non-Philly portion of the state, Obama’s soft support among suburbanites in metro Philly, and the shift of the white working class in the west, a target of 425,000 net votes is not unreasonable. That would assume a 4 percent increase in the vote in the non-Philly portion of the state relative to 2008, and Romney winning those voters by eight points (compared to five for George W. Bush and ten for Pat Toomey).

And then it just comes down to how well Team Obama has Philadelphia County organized. If he can drive turnout there as he did in 2008, netting 470,000 votes, the state will go his way, albeit narrowly. If his turnout machine is lacking a little bit – due to diminished grassroots enthusiasm, lack of preparation by Team Obama, or just the inevitable drift of marginal Republican voters in the county to the GOP banner – Obama will be in trouble. After all, John Kerry broke all the records in Philadelphia County in 2004 by netting about 410,000 votes, then Obama smashed them to reach 480,000 even as the county’s population was stagnant. If Obama “only” has the county as well organized as Kerry did, then in this scenario Romney would win the Keystone State, albeit it narrowly.