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If 2010 was a political earthquake, the epicenter may well have been the state of Pennsylvania. The Keystone State replaced Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell with Republican Tom Corbett, and elected far-right former Republican Rep. Patrick Toomey to the United States Senate. Worse still: the GOP picked up a gaudy five seats in the House of Representatives, sending Kathy Dahlkemper, Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney, and Paul Kanjorski to the rail, and picking up the seat of Senate candidate Joe Sestak.

The thundering crash of Democratic fortunes in Pennsylvania led many to speculate that the state that John McCain counted on as a desperation firewall in 2008 (and failed to win) would be a key cog in the GOP's path to 270 electoral votes and Barack Obama's early retirement.

Now, with little more than seven weeks remaining in the 2012 electoral cycle, it looks like Pennsylvania is nearly certain to remain in the Obama coalition of states, and quite possibly by a healthier margin than the 2008 landslide.

More on that in a bit, but first, on to the numbers:

PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION TRIAL HEATS:

NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama d. Romney (49-45)

NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama tied with Romney (48-48)

NEW JERSEY (Philadelphia Inquirer): Obama d. Romney (51-37)

PENNSYLVANIA (Philadephia Inquirer): Obama d. Romney (50-39)

DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
OHIO (Rasmussen): Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) 49, Josh Mandel (R) 41
A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...

Last Fall, it actually appeared as if Pennsylvania would be a battleground state. SurveyUSA and PPP both had the prospective contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney deadlocked, while Quinnipiac gave Obama the most minuscule of leads (44-43). Given the 20 electoral votes that comes with victory in the Keystone State, it was not uncommon for pundits to talk about Pennsylvania in the same breath as Ohio and Florida as critical states for determining the occupant of the White House in January of 2013.

Perhaps the timing is coincidental, but it sure seems as if the Republican Primary battle turned out to be Barack Obama's best friend. In the five polls prior to February 15th, the average Obama lead in Pennsylvania was barely discernible (1.2 percentage points). The five polls after the primary season began? Obama's lead shot out to 7.0 percentage points. This morning's new poll for the Philadelphia Inquirer gave Obama an 11-point edge, a lead only surpassed in this cycle by a late Spring poll by Franklin and Marshall.

If there is a downside for the Democrats, it is the fact that this palpable shift in Pennsylvania's political preferences came too late to help downballot. While Democratic recruiting nationally for the House was quite good, their recruiting in Pennsylvania was comparably weak, especially given how many freshman members were facing voters as an incumbent for the first time. Realistically, Democrats only have three targets in the state, and four of those class of 2010 Republicans (Kelly, Meehan, Marino, and Barletta) are almost certainly safe.

That said, Pennsylvania being essentially off the boards (and the relative lack of campaign spending confirms what both campaigns think of their fortunes there) has one huge impact on the presidential race, as it reduces the pathways to victory for Romney.

In other polling news...

  • One Republican Senate aspirant whose polling has slipped notably in the past few weeks is Ohio's Josh Mandel. Today's polling release, showing him eight points behind incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown (with Brown just shy of 50 percent) is the latest blow, especially when one considers that it was the House of Ras levelling that blow at Mandel's fortunes. NBC/Marist found Brown staked to a similar edge earlier in the week.
  • Speaking of how states have changed over the course of the cycle, though the polls have wavered little, there was some wishful thinking for GOPers earlier in the cycle that the emergence of blowhard Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey would make the Republican Party more attractive to the residents of the Garden State. And while Christie's numbers in the state remain pretty decent, he is offering no coattails for his presidential nominee. The Philly Inquirer poll is the second poll in a week (the Fairleigh Dickinson poll was the other) showing Romney down 14 points to Obama in the state.
  • In a national poll finding that may have implications for several downballot initiatives, yesterday's new poll by CBS/NYT shows one of the wider spreads in support for same-sex marriage in recent data. According to the survey, support for marriage equality now stands at 51 percent, with opposition down to 41 percent. That was a marked difference from the previous CBS/NYT poll, where a bare plurality (48-46) supported marriage equality. Equality advocates are looking to initiatives on the ballot in four different states.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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