With just under a week to go before Election Day, the Romney campaign has a case of the blues -- the electoral kind.
Yesterday brought the news that the campaign was wading into Pennsylvania, traditionally safe Democratic territory, with a flight of televised campaign ads set to begin today.
According to a source tracking television ad buys in the battleground states, the Romney campaign has already reserved nearly $600,000 worth of air time in the Philadelphia media market, and the GOP campaign's move comes close on the heels of the news that the Obama campaign is also going on the air in the Keystone State. The initial size of the Obama ad buy is $650,000 on broadcast and cable in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas from Oct. 31 through Nov. 6.
And it's not just Pennsylvania. Late last week, both campaigns took to the airwaves in another typically blue state -- Minnesota --- and now there are signs of movement in Michigan too. ABC News recently changed Pennsylvania and Minnesota's rating from "safe" to "lean" Democratic. Michigan remains in solid Obama territory.
It is possible that both campaigns' investments will grow before next Tuesday. And Romney's buy is bolstering the effort of several GOP outside groups, including the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, which announced a multi-million advertising blitz in many of these states. So, why are the Romney campaign and Republican outside groups moving into blue territory like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan?
Here are some theories:
OHIO IS A LOST CAUSE? If so Romney needs need another path to 270 Electoral Votes. Despite the plethora of media polls showing Obama ahead in the Buckeye State (including today's Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News Swing State poll showing the president ahead of Romney there, 50 percent to 45 percent) Republicans not affiliated with the Romney campaign say they have polling showing a dead heat or Romney slightly ahead. In that vein, we are left to wonder whether his decision to run a blatantly false ad in Toledo regarding Jeep moving production to China is a Hail Mary pass or a way to try and tip this very tight contest?
BETTER BANG FOR THE BUCK: Campaigns and the outside groups have lots of money to spend and not a lot of places to spend it. Not only is it prohibitively expensive to try to buy last-minute ad time in places like Ohio and Virginia, there simply may not be any ad time to buy. TV stations have to make ad time available to campaigns, but not to outside groups. Moreover, the TV stations aren't required to provide the most highly desired times (like prime time or morning time). If an outside group wants to get the biggest bang for its buck, its states like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan where they'll get it.
MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF DEMOGRAPHICS: What do Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan all have in common?
Vote in 2008:
National: 74 percent white
Pennsylvania: 81 percent white
Minnesota: 90 percent white
Michigan = 82 percent white
The latest ABC News-Washington Post tracking poll, shows Romney getting 57 percent of the white vote, including 60 percent of white men
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MO': The Romney campaign may be trying to keep the momentum story line going, even though the momentum is gone. As our ABC News-Washington Post tracking polls have shown, whatever momentum Romney had last week has stalled. So, what better way to keep the "momentum" storyline going than to show a campaign confident enough to expand the map.
THE SPIN: The Obama campaign regularly ran television ads in Pennsylvania during the spring and summer, before curtailing their spending there - until now. "We're going to take every precaution," Obama strategist David Axelrod said on Monday. "We're not going to surrender any state to them in terms of the airwaves." A Romney aide characterized the campaign's attempt to turn Pennsylvania and Minnesota (both of which voted for Obama four years ago) into red states as an "effort to get to 300 not just 270 electoral votes."
"We've ensured that we have every dollar we need going toward staff, voter contact, get-out-the-vote, advertising and digital outreach. We've bought all the TV that can be bought," the aide said in an interview with ABC News. "We've done everything that we can do, and now we're expanding the map into areas that the president shouldn't even be thinking twice about." But an Obama campaign aide disagreed with that framing.
"They are doing this because they don't have a path to 270, currently," this aide said. "They're not going to win Ohio, they're down in Virginia. So they need to expand the map, otherwise they're in trouble."
THE BIG QUESTION: If Romney is serious about turning these blue states red, will he spend any time in Pennsylvania, Minnesota or Michigan before Election Day? A Romney aide tells The Note: "Stay tuned."