Cambria County is east of Pittsburgh, and it’s the critical swing county in the state’s southwest region. Obama won here by a percentage point four years ago, and in 2004, Bush carried the county by two points. It includes Johnstown, a Democratic city that was the late John Murtha’s political base for decades, as well as Republican-leaning suburbs closer to Pittsburgh. Voters here list the economy as their top issue, but they view it through a different prism than do Bucks County voters. Cambria County is full of families who grew up with fathers who worked in coal mines and steel mills, and many of the best jobs in the county remain in the energy sector. Expect Obama to pay a price for his regulations.
“Cambria is dead even,” says G. Terry Madonna. “These are working-class, blue-collar voters who were offended by the president’s comment about Pennsylvanians’ clinging to their guns and their religion. It has a Democratic history, but it’s culturally conservative.”
Senator Toomey carried Cambria two years ago, and Republican Keith Rothfus, who narrowly lost his House race in 2010, is running strong against the county’s incumbent congressman, Democrat Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer. Romney should also be helped by U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith, a former coal executive from the region who is running countless TV ads about Obama’s “war on coal.”