Not only would it be tricky for President Obama to win reelection without Pennsylvania from purely a numbers perspective, but the state will also serve as a bellwether for independent voters nationally. The Pennsylvania electorate is made up of the same type of voters Obama needs to reach across the country: middle class, white moderates and independents.
Strategists say a loss in Pennsylvania would all but doom the president’s reelection hopes. It would mean he hadn’t rallied his base, or won back independent voters who abandoned him in 2010, or closed an enthusiasm gap that now favors Republicans. A poor showing here — a state the Democratic nominee has carried in the last five presidential contests — would suggest Obama’s surprising 2008 victories in states such as Virginia and North Carolina would be tough to duplicate.
The Israel issue has a big influence in Pennsylvania politics, which will be another obstacle for Obama. Exit polling from 2008 showed Jewish voters made up 4 percent of the electorate – and they helped contribute to Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s victory over J Street-endorsed Democratic candidate Joe Sestak in 2010.
Speaking of Sestak, he thinks Romney would be the most competitive candidate against Obama in Pennsylvania:
“The race is going to be a nail-biter for him, particularly if Gov. Romney” is his opponent, said Joe Sestak, a Pennsylvania Democrat who lost a U.S. Senate race to Republican Patrick J. Toomey in 2010.
It seems counterintuitive, but Romney’s perceived flip-flopping might prove to be an asset among moderate Republicans and independents in the Philadelphia suburbs, Sestak said, because those voters don’t want ideologues.
As for Obama’s presidency, Sestak said, “There was a promise that this wasn’t going to be a red-blue battle — that it was going to be something different. It never came about, and people have a right to be disappointed. It is tough, sure, but he’s the captain of the ship.”
Considering that Sestak is a Democrat and lost his last election, I’m not sure how much weight his advice to Republicans really carries. But polls do back him up. A late November Public Policy Polling survey found that Romney came closest to beating Obama in the state, tying him at 45 percent. Gingrich was the fourth most competitive GOP candidate in a matchup, losing to Obama by six points.