It’s only August, but the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes is in fully swing. First lady Michelle Obama took a swing through eastern Pennsylvania Thursday, stumping in West Philadelphia, Fort Washington and Bethlehem.
I went to her event in Montgomery County, which has the third most registered voters in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh’s home county of Allegheny.
For decades it was a battleground area that leaned Republican, but as the county has grown in recent years, it’s become friendlier country to Democrats.
In 2000, Al Gore won the county by 10 points over George W Bush. In the last election, Obama scored a 20-point margin over John McCain.
I spoke to county Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen at the Fort Washington event, and asked if he could repeat that performance in 2012.
“I don’t know if I can do that, but we’ll do well,” he said.
The first lady takes her shots
Reporters who’d covered the first lady’s speech in West Philadelphia told me it was virtually identical to her talk at the gym at Upper Dublin High School, and it was pretty close to the speech I saw her give at the National Constitution Center a few weeks back.
Michelle Obama never mentions Romney by name. She extols her husband’s achievements, but mostly tries to inspire supporters to give every ounce of effort for the cause.
“If you’re making phone calls or knocking on doors, bring along that one little knucklehead friend of yours,” Obama said, getting belly laughs from many in the crowd. “You know, the one that’s never really registered to vote, and not really sure about getting involved. Bring that friend.”
The speech is about inspiring exertion and rewarding volunteers with a special moment with a charismatic figure.
It seemed the first lady did make a special appeal to women, and that those notes resonated with the crowd.
“Be sure to tell people that Barack believes women should be able to make our own choices about her health care,” she said, getting wild applause. “And of course, do not forget to remind people about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices Barack appointed, and how for the first time in history our sons and daughters watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court.”
A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Obama leading Romney among women by a margin of 59 to 35 points.
The Republicans weren’t quite leaving the stage to the first lady yesterday.
Republicans stirring too
In Philadelphia yesterday morning, Romney’s former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey visited a Republican campaign office in center city, praising GOP efforts in other races.
“You guys did an incredible job electing a Republican governor and senator and five new congressmen,” Healey said. ” You guys are just leading the way and I can only hope that Massachusetts will look to Pennsylvania and learn some lessons from you because that’s the direction we need to restore prosperity to America.”
While Healey is right that the GOP has done well in statewide races in Pennsylvania, the Republicans haven’t carried the state for the presidential ticket since 1988.
It will be interesting to see whether the Romney campaign renews its investment of advertising dollars in Pennsylvania after the convention, or concedes the state to the president.
If you want to see a spreadsheet I prepared showing the presidential vote in the last three presidential elections in Montgomery County and statewide, click here.