President Barack Obama won Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes Tuesday, fending off a late incursion by GOP challenger Mitt Romney in a state that's long played a key role for Democrats seeking the White House.
Obama continued the Democrats' winning streak in Pennsylvania, which hasn't picked a Republican for president since 1988, amid heavy turnout and some confusion over the state's suspended voter-identification law.
Voters also gave Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey a second six-year term; elected the first woman and first Democrat to be attorney general; and picked candidates for all 18 of Pennsylvania's congressional seats, most state legislative seats, and two other statewide row offices.
The presidential campaign had bypassed Pennsylvania — seemingly confirming its diminished status as a battleground — until a late blitz of TV ads by Romney and his Republican allies. The Obama campaign responded in kind, defending a state crucial to the incumbent's re-election hopes. No Democrat has won the White House without Pennsylvania in 64 years.
Democrats called Romney's play for Pennsylvania an act of desperation and were quick to distribute a list of earlier GOP contenders who'd made similar last-minute forays — only to see their hopes crushed on Election Day.
Undeterred, Romney visited twice in the closing days of the campaign, including an Election Day stop in Pittsburgh. Former President Bill Clinton made the case for Obama in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Scranton, the boyhood home of Vice President Joe Biden.
As Pennsylvania voters headed to the polls, their foremost concern was the state of the economy. Six in 10 called it their top issue, according to results from an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. Only one in five voters said they're better off today than they were four years ago.
But many said weren't prepared to hand the White House keys to Romney.
Franco Montalto, 39, an environmental engineer voting for Obama in Philadelphia, said the frustration he felt over the slow pace of economic recovery was tempered by his distaste of "dangerous" Republicans.
Outside a volunteer fire station in rural Lamar in Clinton County, though, auto parts store employee Frank Frederick said he didn't like where the country was headed under Obama and gave Romney his vote.
"He's a take-charge guy. He impresses me because he can fix things," said Frederick, 66.
In the mostly low-profile but aggressively fought Senate contest, Casey — namesake son of the late governor, former state officeholder and reliable ally of organized labor — fended off a challenge from Smith, a conservative who poured millions of dollars of his own coal mining-industry fortune into the campaign.
Smith portrayed his opponent as a do-nothing rubber stamp of Obama. Casey, in turn, cast Smith as a tea party darling whose positions were too extreme for Pennsylvania.