Mitt Romney is making a last-minute run at Pennsylvania – or else it’s just a head fake designed to trick President Obama into spending money to defend a state where he has led for a long time.
Either way, Obama’s campaign did buy $1.6 million on air time Tuesday to run 30-second and 60-escond spots through Election Day in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh television markets.
Meanwhile, Romney’s campaign had reserved at least $931,475 worth of time by late Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Scranton-Wilkes Barre; Erie and Johnstown-Altoona, according to media buyers tracking political spending.
The pro-Romney Restore our Future super PAC made a $2.1 million ad buy in the state on Monday, and another GOP group, American Crossroads, added $1.2 million Tuesday for ads that will begin airing Wednesday. That’s in addition to the $1.1 million already committed by yet another Republican super PAC, Americans for Job Security.
So for the last week of the campaign, Romney and his allies plan to spend about $5.4 million in a state that no Republican presidential candidate has carried since 1988, and where polls show Obama with a consistent lead of from 4 to 6 percentage points.
The last minute spending bump is sure to feed the Republican message that Romney has momentum and is able to “expand the map” of winnable target states; Romney forces have also made recent advertising forays into reliably blue Minnesota and Michigan, and Obama’s campaign has countered that spending as well.
At the very least, the Republicans can use their advantage in cash-on-hand to force the Democrats to spend money and effort there instead of in states where the polls are tighter.
Romney strategists argued that he can win Pennsylvania. “This expansion of the electoral map demonstrates that Gov. Romney’s momentum has jumped containment from the usual target states and has spread to deeper-blue states that Chicago never anticipated defending,” Romney political director Rich Beeson argued in a memo released Tuesday afternoon.
“There is no Romney momentum in the battleground states and the Romney campaign has found itself with a tremendously narrow and improbable path to 270 electoral votes,” countered Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “Now, like Republicans did in 2008, they are throwing money at states where they never built an organization and have been losing for two years.”
On Nov. 6, one of them will be right.

The Obama campaign apparently is running two ads in Pennsylvania, “Determination,” which touts progress in the economy, and “Stretch,” which attacks the wealthy Romney for paying a lower income-tax rate than many middle-class families.

Romney has begun with an ad that attacks Obama on coal, an important industry in southwest Pennsylvania. See it below: