(WASHINGTON) — When Mitt Romney’s bus tour pulls into Pennsylvania on Saturday, it will be entering a state no Republican candidate has won since George H.W. Bush in 1988. John McCain lost the state to Barack Obama by more than 10 points in 2008, and with one million more voters registered Democrat than Republican, it should be enemy territory for the Romney team.
But Romney will make three stops there on Saturday and this time the GOP thinks it can take the state and its 20 electoral votes.
The presumptive nominee is sounding confident, telling a Philadelphia radio station this week, “We see Pennsylvania very much as being in play.”
“We’re very early in the process,” Romney said, somewhat hedging his bet. “People in Pennsylvania recognize that if we’re gonna get good manufacturing jobs back and a better future for the middle class, we’re gonna have to have a president that understands how the economy works, we’re gonna have to have a president that will take advantage of the oil and the coal and the natural gas which is plentiful in Pennsylvania.”
The polls show it will still be an uphill battle, but Republicans see encouragement in those numbers.
A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed President Obama ahead in the Keystone State by six points, 46 percent to 40 percent. That’s a slight decrease from the May Quinnipiac poll when Obama had an eight-point lead, 47 percent to 39 percent, and it’s raising spirits in the GOP.
So is this number: Voters in the state said Romney would do a better job on the economy, 49 percent to Obama’s 41 percent. The same poll revealed 45 percent think Romney would create more jobs; 43 percent picked Obama on that question. Romney leads on handling the economy and job creation with independent voters, probably the best sign for Republicans in the poll.
The chairman of the Pennsylvania GOP, Rob Gleason, said it will be a “dog fight” in the state, adding, “We’re very positive we are going to be able to win Pennsylvania.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Mark Preston and David Wright, CNN Newswire
Stephen Collinson, CNN Newswire