WESTLAKE, Ohio -- Republican Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence urged the Keystone State GOP to "make Pennsylvania red again in this election," targeting the state Thursday morning in one of his first stops after accepting the nomination as Donald Trump's running mate.
His speech at the Pennsylvania delegation's morning breakfast at the Republican National Convention again emphasized again the value Trump has placed on winning Pennsylvania, a state Republicans haven't captured since 1988.
Pence was the third high-profile Trump ally to visit the delegation: House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed the group Monday and Donald Trump Jr. spoke to them Tuesday.
Pence, the governor of Indiana, said Trump reminds him to former president Ronald Reagan.
"He's a builder, he's a fighter, he's a patriot," Pence said. "He hears the frustration of the American people and he became our nominee because he gave voice to that like no other among an extraordinary talented field."
He arrived at the breakfast just hours after speaking to the country and formally accepting his nomination Wednesday night.
Pennsylvania Republicans said the high-powered roster that has visited their delegation shows how serious Trump is about contesting the state.
"You gotta go through Pennsylvania to get to the White House," U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Pa.) told the state delegation before Pence arrived.
GOP operatives and Trump allies said they expect a significant investment in the Keystone State this fall, both in terms of money and campaign surrogates. Republican officials have said they've seen a surge in voter registration and enthusiasm, particularly among working-class voters in Northeast and Southwest.
Republican candidates, of course, have long made noise about contesting Pennsylvania, but have struggled to make it competitive -- or invest significant resources. Mitt Romney only made a late push in 2012 once it became clear other swing states had moved out of reach.
Democrats have a nearly one-million person voter registration edge, and even some Republicans worry that Trump's style will turn off moderate GOP voters in the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs, undercutting gains elsewhere. And Trump has yet to spend money on ads in Pennsylvania.
For Democrats, the challenge will be replicating the massive turnout in Philadelphia that helped fuel President Obama's 2012 reelection. Some in the party worry that year -- which included Obama's bid for a second term and a backlash to the state's Voter ID law -- was a high-water mark, and that 2016 could be more challenging.
Clinton has a head start on the air. According to The Hill, a Capitol Hill news outlet, the her campaign is spending $800,000 on television ads in Pennsylvania this week along. But public polls show a tight race in Pennsylvania so far.
Clinton will be front and center in the state next week, when Philadelphia hosts the Democratic National Convention.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS:
-- Ted Cruz. Wow: The most stunning scene of the convention so far unfolded Wednesday when the Cleveland crowd lustily booed Ted Cruz off the stage -- after he gave a speech devoid of praise for Donald Trump and in which he urged Republicans to "vote your conscience." So much was going on here: Cruz's eyes on his own future, the long-running (and very personal) feud between the two, a party desperately seeking unity around a divisive candidate and a stunning reversal from the start to end of the speech. Cruz arrived to huge applause, and the room was rapt when he spoke early. By the end, the crowd was chanting "Trump" at him and raining down boos.
-- This picture said it all:
-- TX Reax: Email late last night from a Texas delegate on the bus back to their hotel after the Cruz speech: "people are PISSED at Ted."
-- PA blast back: Rep. Tom Marino, Trump's Pennsylvania chairman, hit back at Cruz Thursday morning at the state delegation breakfast: "He could have been a hero," Marino said, "but he let his ego get in the way of things."
-- Cruz isn't done: Cruz made it clear that this fight is personal. "I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and who attack my father," he said Thursday night at a Texas delegation breakfast.
-- Pence fires it up: Lost amid the furor of the Cruz speech was that Pence had the crowd at a fever pitch (in a good way) by the end of his speech -- with a bit of help from Trump, who joined him on stage to a massive ovation. Pence isn't a thrilling speaker, but he even used that to his advantage by opening with some well-received self-deprecation. By the end it was one of the two most lively moments of the convention -- along with the Cruz speech.
-- Guilty!: Hours after his Tuesday night speech "prosecuting" Hillary Clinton, Gov. Christie praised David Samson -- the close ally who just pled guilty to corruption charges -- as an "extraordinary person."
-- Lone Star love: No one is has more fun than Texas, one delegate told me, and interviewing a few delegates ahead of Cruz's speech last night, it was hard to argue. During every song they dance and wave their signature wide-brimmed hats.
-- Rising up to the challenge of our rivals: Eye of the Tiger. At 8:30 in the morning. That was the soundtrack at the Pennsylvania delegation breakfast Thursday. Because when Philadelphia is your state's largest city, that's what you do.
WHAT TO WATCH TONIGHT:
-- In tonight's episode ... Night one of convention featured accusations of plagiarism. Night three had Cruz verbally burning down the house -- and the crowd turning on him. Trump promised a show, and so far he has delivered. What drama does he have in store tonight?
-- The big arrival: Trump has arrived in Cleveland three times so far. Once through a fog machine as "We are the Champions" blared Monday. By video Tuesday night. And aboard a helicopter that touched down off Lake Erie Wednesday afternoon. So what WWE-style antics does the showman have in store for his big speech Thursday?
-- Positivity, maybe? The first three nights of the convention have laid out a grim picture of America and stinging attacks on Hillary Clinton. What's been missing is a message of how Trump would make it better, and why he's qualified to do it. Will the candidate make an affirmative case for himself? Or simply continue the attacks?
-- Bigger than the Cruz flap: As much as political writers and insiders feasted on the Cruz battle, the most significant news from Wednesday may have come from an interview Trump gave to the New York Times, in which he raised questions about the U.S. commitment to NATO. That's a position sure to stir anxiety on a global scale, that could affect the national security of America and its allies, and is sure to become a prominent part of the coming campaign.
-- Dark days in Cleveland: "The Republican presidential convention this week has highlighted Donald Trump's view of America — and it sounds like a terrible, terrible place," writes the Washington Post. The One problem? Some key indicators -- like the unemployment rate and violate crime statistics -- are improving.
-- These Trumps have already won: The nominee's children have won rave reviews for humanizing their father and seeming like polished politicos of their own, writes the Inquirer's Tom Fitzgerald.
-- How technical difficulties brought Satan into a political convention: Ben Carson explained to Time how it was that he veered off his prepared remarks to tie Hillary Clinton to Lucifer. "The teleprompter was moving a little slow," he said. "So rather than pause and wait for it, I just said, 'Pshh.'"
-- Christie: the FBI "blew it": A day after his fiery convention speech, Chris Christie continued to blast away at the Clinton e-mail server controversy, criticizing the FBI decision not to prosecute her, writes the Inquirer's Maddie Hanna.
-- Little sympathy for Black Lives Matter: Speaker after speaker here has derided the Black Lives Matter movement, and there has been little sympathy on stage for people killed in police shootings, the Associated Press reports.
-- Clinton boasts big spending advantage: As Donald Trump enjoys a week of non-stop coverage, Clinton is winning the commercial breaks, The Hill reports. She is spending $4.9 million on television ads in nine swing states this week -- including $800,000 in Pennsylvania -- compared to zero by the Trump campaign and $105,000 by his allies.
-- Dem turmoil: Democrats have some convention drama of their own. Six people were arrested during a Philadelphia sit-in demanding that the city's host committee release the names of donors helping pay for the Democratic National Convention.