Hurricane Sandy May Hurt Obama in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has been mostly leaning in President Barack Obama's direction during the presidential campaign. Recent polls, though, show the race within the margin of error for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Hurricane Sandy may have thrown an additional twist into the state's 20 Electoral College votes. The part of the state most impacted by the hurricane also happens to be one part where Obama gets much of his votes.

Pennsylvania, shaped like a rectangle, is favorable to Republicans in what is known as the "big T" -- across the top and down the middle; and, is favorable to Democrats in the two bottom corners -- the urban areas of Philadelphia to the east and Pittsburgh to the west.

Obama is leading in all the recent Pennsylvania polls, but within the margin of error. The Real Clear Politics average of five recent polls shows Obama leading by 4.6 percentage points, placing it in "toss up" category. The Philadelphia Inquirer shows Obama with the largest lead at six percentage points. Gravis Marketing shows Obama's smallest lead at three percentage points.

With news of those recent polls, the Romney camp and some independent Republican groups began buying ads in Pennsylvania this week.

Most of those who lost power in Pennsylvania reside in nine counties. All nine of those counties voted for Obama in 2008. Plus, authorities have said it may take more than a week for all 1.2 million customers who are in the dark to have their power restored, according to The Washington Post. This could mean some residents would be without power on election day, which could diminish turnout in some of the areas where Obama will receive most of his votes.

In two different Tuesday editorials, Matthew Kaminski and Nate Cohn take opposite views on whether Romney can win Pennsylvania.

The math just does not add up for Romney, Cohn writes for The New Republic. While Cohn agrees that it is possible for Romney to improve over McCain's performance in 2008, he does not believe it possible to accumulate enough votes to win. Romney would need an additional 200,000 to 300,000 votes in Pennsylvania's western "coal country," Cohn calculates, but there were only about one million total votes in that area in 2008. While many of those "coal country," traditionally Democratic voters are open to voting against Obama, Cohn does not believe that "wealthy financier" Romney has the populist message needed to bring large numbers of them to his side.

Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Kaminski, a member of the Journal's editorial board, wrote that Romney can best Obama by gaining votes in the Philadelphia suburbs. Voters in these areas primarily care about the economy, Kaminski argues, and the last Republican presidential candidate to win those counties was, like Romney, a northeasterner -- George H. W. Bush in 1988.

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