Romney surges, but will his campaign compete in Pa.?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has surged in national polls since his debate performance last week, and Republican leaders in Pennsylvania are hoping for a renewed effort by Romney in the Keystone State that will boost the chances of other GOP candidates.

Neither the Romney campaign nor its allied super PACs have advertised in Pennsylvania for weeks, and visits from candidates have become sparse. It was widely believed that Romney had given up on carrying the state, which hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

Franklin & Marshall College pollster Terry Madonna said he believes Romney has made up ground on Obama since last Wednesday’s debate.

“It’s definitely closer in Pennsylvania, more competitive in Pennsylvania than it was before the debate,” Madonna said.

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A Siena College poll taken the week of the debate showed Romney within three percentage points of Obama in Pennsylvania.

But the Romney campaign hasn’t bought any TV advertising time in Pennsylvania since the debate, and no candidate visits are on the horizon. In fact, five paid Romney campaign staff people were transferred from Pennsylvania to Ohio this week.

Madonna said state and local Republicans want to win for Romney, and they fear that if the national campaign gives up on Pennsylvania “that their voters would stay home, that they would lose turnout, and that’s critical to down-ballot elections.”

In other words, GOP candidates for Senate, Congress, and the state Legislature want the excitement of a loud campaign to energize troops and turn out voters.

J.J. Ballaban, a Democratic media consultant, says turnout’s always a concern, but for a candidate with money to advertise, a quieter presidential contest can make it easier to be heard.

“Communicating a message to voters is harder when there are a ton of other political candidates on the air,” Ballaban said. “And so the absence of presidential ads will make it easier for candidates in both parties to get their message out for less money.”

A Romney campaign official says that the transfer of staff is temporary, to help with early voting in Ohio, and that the GOP nominee still plans to win Pennsylvania.

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