Four Republican Presidential Candidates Who Tried (And Failed) To Win Pennsylvania

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

In a late shift, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is spending its final days of the presidential race trying to engineer an upset victory in Pennsylvania. Paul Ryan will host a campaign rally near Harrisburg on Saturday, and Romney will campaign in Bucks County on Sunday, as the campaign — along with the Republican National Committee and pro-Romney Super PACs –spends over $10 million in ad buys across the state.

Although Romney has literally never held a statistically significant lead over President Obama in any poll of the state, the campaign is projecting optimism that it can pull off an upset victory. “Pennsylvania presents a unique opportunity for the Romney campaign,” Romney political director Rich Beeson wrote in a memo earlier this week. He added that Pennsylvania is “a natural next step as we expand the playing field.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans say something along these lines every four years. As the Democratic National Committee points out, every Republican in the past 20 years has made a late play for Pennsylvania. Since the Romney campaign finds itself unable to make up ground in Ohio, it has little choice but to search for alternate paths to victory — such as Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.

Here are four Republicans who have tried — and failed — to “expand the map” in the Keystone State:

1992: George H.W. Bush

Trailing Bill Clinton in the polls, President Bush traveled to Pennsylvania on November 3rd to reassure his supporters that the race was not yet over:

Pounding his fist, hatless but oblivious to a cold drizzle at the rally in Pennsylvania, he exhorted the crowd to remember that Tuesday’s election is not a poll, but is “up to what the American people think.” [New York Times, 11/3/92]

Bush would go on to lose Pennsylvania by 9 points.

1996: Bob Dole

Bob Dole spent the final days of the 1996 campaign in the Keystone State, telling supporters “Don’t give up Pennsylvania. Things are happening up here.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/1/96]

What was happening was a landslide for President Clinton. Dole lost Pennsylvania by 10 points.

Photo via

2000/2004: George W. Bush

In the 2000 election, the Bush campaign claimed to be in position to finally turn Pennsylvania red. “I just think it’s dead even,” Leslie Gromis, Bush’s campaign chairman in Pennsylvania said. Tommy Ryan, the Montgomery County GOP chairman, claimed “I believe Bush is ahead, but not by a very large margin.” [Chicago Tribune, 10/28/00]

In reality, Vice President Al Gore carried the state by just over 4 percent.

In 2004, Bush again tried to put Pennsylvania in play, visiting the state on the day before the election. The Republicans fell short again, however, as John Kerry won the state by 2.5 percent.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

2008: John McCain

With McCain’s campaign on the ropes, the Arizona senator went to Pennsylvania to try and turn the race around. “It’s wonderful to fool the pundits, because we’re going to win in Pennsylvania,” McCain told supporters at the end of October.

McCain ended up losing the state by 10 points (despite the ironic fact that Mitt Romney had predicted that McCain would win it).

Photo via


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