Baer: Is Pennsylvania still in play for the presidency?

“I Love War,” a new TV spot from a Pro-Clinton PAC, shows images of war interspersed with Trump’s own words, and no narration.

REMEMBER when Pennsylvania was the It state?

Trump had to have it. Hillary had to have it. It was, said so many, critical and possibly (to borrow from George W. Bush) "the decider."

That was in May, June, even July. But now?

I'd offer some observations.

On Sunday, Donald Trump's most current campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said on ABC's "This Week" that Trump doesn't need Pennsylvania to win.

On Monday, Labor Day, Trump and Clinton were in Ohio, not Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, Inquirer political writer Tom Fitzgerald reported on a new killer TV ad titled "I Love War" (Trump's own words) from a pro-Hillary super PAC. The ad's to run in five states in which the race is tightest: Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio - in other words, not Pennsylvania.

The latest CBS News poll has Clinton up 8 points in the state, 45-37. The average of four Pennsylvania polls released during the past two weeks has Clinton ahead by 6.5 points, according to Real Clear Politics.

And national pundits Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia and Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report rate Pennsylvania "likely" and "leans" Democratic, respectively.

So is the state still in play?

"I don't think either side can win without Pennsylvania," says Democratic state party chief Marcel Groen. "We think we're in good shape, but we can't take it for granted."

Election Day's still two months off. Events and missteps happen. Debates lie ahead. And this political cycle is, shall we say, less predictable than cycles past.

Plus, there's evidence that Clinton's camp thinks the state's still in play.

Surrogates Joe Biden and President Clinton were in over the holiday weekend, as was Clinton running mate Sen. Tim Kaine.

Chelsea Clinton is scheduled in central Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton are in the state Friday: she in Philly, he in Pittsburgh. And President Obama is to be in Philly next week.

This is because Clinton has more high-profile surrogates than Trump to push for new voter registrations and high turn-out in a state with more D's than R's.

Or because a Washington Post survey updated last week had Clinton up just 4 points here.

And/or because Clinton wants a big win so Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty can tailgate on a large margin to help retake the Senate from Republicans. GOP Sen. Pat Toomey remains among the nation's most vulnerable incumbents.

Yes, Trump's been in the state and is due back in Philly Wednesday. But his visit is so far scheduled as an invitation-only event at the Union League, a speech on national security and veterans' issues, closed to the public.

Still, CNN contributor and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord tells me that Pennsylvania remains "totally winnable" for The Donald.


"It's just my gut," says Lord. "I think there's enthusiasm there for him that's not there for her."

He might be right, at least nationally.

National polling by CNN released Tuesday has Trump ahead of Clinton, 45-43, and shows the enthusiasm gap to which Lord refers.

Asked if they're more or less enthusiastic about voting in this election compared to past elections, 57 percent of registered Democrats said they are less enthusiastic; 40 percent of Republicans. Good news for Trump.

But the same poll notes that a majority of voters - 59 percent - believe Clinton wins the Electoral College, and therefore the presidency. Just 34 percent say Trump wins.

And Pennsylvania? Clearly no longer the It state. At least not right now.