The Ticket

Romney to go on the attack in Pennsylvania, but Democrats beat him to it

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PITTSBURGH—Mitt Romney returns to Pennsylvania today, where he's expected to debut a more aggressive message against President Barack Obama's policies and his ties to political donors. The move comes after days of blistering attacks from Democrats on Romney's resume at Bain Capital and the Republican nominee's refusal to release additional years of tax returns.

But Romney's counterpunch comes in a state that has long been politically tricky for Republican candidates, and the Obama campaign isn't ceding any ground. Ahead of Romney's arrival in the state today, local TV was saturated with Democratic attack ads taking aim at the GOP candidate's time at Bain Capital.

One spot getting major play: an Obama ad featuring Romney singing "America the Beautiful" as headlines flashed on the screen noting his foreign investments and accusing Bain of "shipping" jobs overseas. The ad aired no less than five times during the 11 p.m. hour on local TV on Monday night. It was backed up by a separate ad by Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Obama's re-election, featuring a former GST Steel worker accusing Romney and Bain Capital of running the now-defunct company into the ground.

There were no pro-Romney ads on the air—not from the campaign, which has yet to buy ad time in the state, or from any of the conservative groups backing his candidacy.

So far, the negative attacks appear to be working. While a recent Quinnipiac poll found the state statistically split on whether they approve of the job Obama is doing in the White House, the president's 45 percent approval rating was still 12 points higher than Romney's—thanks in part to strong support for Obama among women. That backing helped Obama advance to a 6-point lead over Romney in the state, 45 percent to 39 percent.

At the same time, the Quinnipiac poll found voters equally split on who would better handle the economy—and that's where Romney sees an opening. In June, he traveled the state in a bus tour, visiting small towns that have been hard hit by the economy and arguing that he'd turn the country around.

But Democrats have sought to counter that message by focusing on Bain, pouring tens of millions of dollars into attack ads in key battleground states including Pennsylvania. The Romney campaign has not said when, or if, it will begin airing ads in the state. But Romney has suggested several times—most recently in June—that he believes Pennsylvania is a state he can win this November.

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