Call it a lesson learned.
When four major polls had Hillary Clinton ahead in Pennsylvania, she scheduled a campaign stop in a swath of the state breaking for Donald Trump.
Clinton campaign senior adviser Jeremy Bird remembers what happened in 2004 when Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry focused on Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and other big cities across the country. He won Pennsylvania, but he lost the election.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Bird said. “We’re not running a campaign just in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. We learned a lot from Kerry and we’re not just focusing on certain counties.”
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That was in practice Wednesday afternoon when Clinton campaigned in Harrisburg. She is expected to win the state capital, which will yield a win in Dauphin County, but history shows the majority of central Pennsylvania is Republican territory.
A Trump campaign stop in Lancaster County last weekend drew one of his largest crowds at a Pennsylvania rally, with more than 6,000 people packed onto a court at Spooky Nook Sports Complex.
His campaign did not respond to PennLive’s questions about Trump’s ground game or strategy in Pennsylvania.
According to his schedule, he’s designated Pennsylvania as his first campaign stop after the second presidential debate. Trump on Monday is slated to hold rallies in Ambridge and Wilkes-Barre.
The Clinton campaign sent Vice President Joe Biden to Philadelphia on Friday, and Sen. Bernie Sanders will campaign for her in Scranton and Philadelphia on Saturday.
After the first presidential and vice-presidential debates, both campaigns pounced on Pennsylvania with visits from the presidential candidates, vice-presidential candidates and other surrogates.
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Pennsylvania is considered a key swing state, even though it hasn’t sent a Republican to the White House since 1988.
Democrats also have a voter registration advantage in this state.
But Bird said the Clinton campaign isn’t easing up on ad buys and is committed to the state through the election.
“Pennsylvania is always a battleground state,” he said.
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This is a state where Clinton invested early in the primary with a strong ground game.
Her campaign has 56 offices in Pennsylvania, including about two dozen in southeast Pennsylvania.
Bird said they have a “huge opportunity” in Philadelphia and its suburbs, but they also need to do well in Allegheny County and the Lehigh Valley. However, he said they are thinking about the state in its totality.
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Trump has 12 campaign offices in Pennsylvania, according to his website. Those offices, like Clinton’s, have been focused on registering voters ahead of the Oct. 11 registration deadline and Nov. 8 election.
“We’re putting a lot of effort into voter registration,” Bird said. “We continue to drive that to as many people as possible. We’re reaching out to households…knocking on doors, telling people when and why and how to vote. We’re talking to everyone.”
As of Friday, Clinton had a 6-point lead in Pennsylvania, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
President Barack Obama had a 5-point lead in Pennsylvania at this time in 2012 and won the election by 5 points.
Clinton got a boost in the polls after the first presidential debate, and another debate is scheduled Sunday night.
However, there’s still time for Trump to rebound, said Trump supporter and CNN analyst Jeffrey Lord.
“Absolutely he can turn this around,” Lord said. “(There’s) a long way to go. Anything can happen in the remaining days of the campaign.”
The race comes down to which of the two presidential candidates is acceptable to a significant portion of voters in battleground states, said Terry Madonna, veteran political analyst and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College.
And, this year, voters are deciding based on likability rather than policy, he said.
“This is more about past and personalities than any other race in history,” Madonna said. “There’s always some of that, to some degree, but there’s a magnificent obsession this year. Think of how many times you’ve heard Clinton has a relatability problem or Trump is temperamentally unfit. The 2016 election is more about personalities than issues.”