By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s a trap. Or at least it could be.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell warned the Pennsylvania delegation at the Democratic National Convention here that the presidential race is not over in the Keystone State, despite reports this week that Republicans were pulling advertising out of the state.
Most polls show Democratic President Barack Obama with a lead of between 5 and 10 points in Pennsylvania, but Rendell said the GOP might be laying a trap in the hopes that Democrats will slack off in their efforts to secure the state’s 20 electoral votes for Obama.
Rendell addressed the delegation at breakfast on the final day of the convention, along with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey; U.S. Reps. Chaka Fattah, of District 2, and Allyson Schwartz, of District 13; and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who hails from Greene County in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Observers believe Pennsylvania lies just outside of the eight or nine “swing states” that could determine the outcome of the presidential election.
The Keystone State has not backed a Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988, and it does not seem to be a prominent target in 2012 for GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign or Republican-supporting super PACs.
Republicans came closest to recapturing the state in 2004, when John Kerry edged George W. Bush by a little more than 2 percent there.
But Republican fundraisers may see it as out of reach this year. The Associated Press reported this week that two key Romney groups — political advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC — have pulled their television advertising in Pennsylvania after spending about $20 million there.
But Rendell said nothing in politics is a sure thing.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us here,” said Rendell, who is also a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Democrats are not alone in hoping the race in Pennsylvania will tighten in the final weeks of the campaign.
While Republicans disagree with Rendell “on nearly every political matter, his political instincts on our state’s competitiveness in the presidential race are correct,” emailed Valerie Caras, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, on Thursday.
Caras said Republicans could rely on a large grassroots network to get out the vote for Romney in Pennsylvania even without advertising money from outside groups.
If the polls do narrow between now and Election Day, Montgomery County in the Philadelphia suburbs figures to be one of the most critical parts of the nation for both presidential candidates, according to election experts.
Josh Shapiro, Montgomery County commissioner and a delegate to the DNC, said Pennsylvania is “legitimately competitive” and Democratic efforts to turn out voters are in full swing.
“It’s door-to-door, making phone calls and targeting our voters,” Shapiro said. “And we’re doing that now. It’s much easier to ask for their vote on Nov. 6, if you’ve done the legwork ahead of time.”
Dave Fillman, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13, which represents public workers in the state, said organized labor would continue its get-out-the-vote efforts until Election Day, even if the polls continued to show a lead for Obama.
“We’re not going to change anything,” Fillman said Thursday here.
With a lead in the polls, Democrats in Pennsylvania have used the Republican-passed voter ID law to energize their base. The law was upheld by a state judge and will go before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Sept. 13.
Fattah said Democrats are using this issue to remind their volunteers how important getting out the vote will be.
Contact Eric Boehm at [email protected] or follow @EricBoehm87 on Twitter.