Mitt Romney expands ad campaign into Pennsylvania

Mitt Romney’s campaign is seeking to expand the political battleground with an advertising blitz in Pennsylvania, a move hailed by his staffers as a symbol of his broadening support and dismissed by President Obama’s advisers as a desperation ploy.

With plans to buy ads in the expensive Philadelphia market, Romney is hoping to make a play for the state’s 20 electoral votes in what has been considered safe Obama territory. Romney’s campaign argues that it is a sign of strength – that things are going so well for them that they’re able to compete in more states.

“Pennsylvania presents a unique opportunity for the Romney campaign,” Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, wrote in a memorandum released today. He noted that the state has elected a Republican US senator, Pat Toomey, and a Republican governor in recent years, as well as sent more Republicans to the state legislature.

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“This expansion of the electoral map demonstrates that Governor Romney’s momentum has jumped containment from the usual target states and has spread to deeper blue states that Chicago never anticipated defending,” Beeson wrote.

President Obama’s campaign counters that Republicans are making a Hail Mary pass because they are unable to win in other battleground states, such as Ohio, and need to find another way to get the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

Obama’s campaign is also buying ads in Pennsylvania, and Vice President Joe Biden is planning to campaign there. Those decisions are made not out of worry that the state is slipping, they argue, but out of precaution and not wanting to give Romney a free pass over the airwaves.

“The Romney campaign has found itself with a tremendously narrow and improbable path to 270 electoral votes,” Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, said in a statement. “Now, like Republicans did in 2008, they are throwing money at states where they never built an organization and have been losing for two years. Let’s be very clear, the Romney campaign and its allies decision to go up with advertising in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota is a decision made out of weakness, not strength.”

A new ad released this afternoon by the Romney campaign highlights Romney’s position on encouraging new coal-powered plants as part of his energy policy.

“And by the way, I like coal!” Romney is seen saying in the first presidential debate, with upbeat music in the background. “People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies.”

The ad, titled “Crushed by your Policies,’’ blames the administration for the closing or converting of 22 coal units in Pennsylvania.

Coal mining in the western part of the state has been slowed by economic forces and, industry insiders say, regulations. Much of that slowdown, however, has been made up by natural gas fracking operations in the area.

Unlike some of the other swing states, Pennsylvania does not offer early in-person voting, which makes a late play an easier feat.

Still, no Republican presidential candidate has carried Pennsylvania since 1988, when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis. Recent polls have suggested that the race is tightening, but most political analysts still have the state leaning in Obama’s direction.

Romney has no plans to visit the state. And the ads that they are buying will reportedly run only on the day before the election and on Election Day, hardly a strategy that would be used to maximum impact. Citing ad trackers, NBC News reported that the buy was at least $120,000.

The pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, announced on Monday that it was spending $2.1 million on ads in Pennsylvania.

Because this year’s campaign is the most expensive ever – each campaign has raised about $1 billion – it makes it easier for trickery and head fakes heading down the final stretch.

“The Romney campaign has the resources to expand the map in ways that weren’t possible in past cycles,” Beeson wrote in the campaign memo.