Conservatives off TV in Michigan, Pennsylvania

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By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Mitt Romney's allies have pulled their advertising from Pennsylvania and Michigan while redoubling efforts in other battleground states. The move indicates that at least for now, efforts by outside groups to help Romney compete in more states have stalled.

The pro-Romney groups American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity are pouring nearly $13 million into advertising in key states, indicating they remain eager to lend considerable financial muscle to Romney in states viewed as truly competitive.

There are no presidential campaign ads of any kind currently airing in Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to information provided by media trackers to The Associated Press. While the Romney campaign has spent almost no money on advertising in either state, conservative groups have spent $20 million on ads for him in Pennsylvania and have spent $8 million on ads in Michigan.

Independent groups have been helping Romney to stay competitive with Obama on the air as the former Massachusetts governor regroups to raise money for the final weeks before the campaign. Romney's campaign coffers were severely depleted after a bruising primary fight, forcing a greater reliance on these conservative super PACs and other groups to get their message out.

President Barack Obama's campaign has been off the air in both Pennsylvania and Michigan for several weeks, even as Republican-leaning groups continued their efforts. Polling has shown Obama consistently leading Romney in the two states, but Romney backers have insisted there is opportunity for him to break through.

Romney was born and grew up in Michigan, where his father, George Romney, was a popular 2-term governor. And Pennsylvania is home to a large population of Catholic and working-class white voters who have never embraced Obama.

But Pennsylvania, a state Obama won with close to 55 percent of the vote, is not on the schedule for the latest advertising buys. Nor is Michigan, where Obama won 57 percent of the vote.

That stands in contrast to 2008, when Republican nominee John McCain and vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin campaigned in Pennsylvania until the week before the election. Palin also publicly expressed frustration when the McCain campaign decided not to contest Michigan.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads, a super PAC advised by President George W. Bush's longtime political counselor Karl Rove, indicated the states aren't competitive for Romney right now.

"Over the last several weeks, the dynamics have been changing in a number of states that have led us to dedicate resources elsewhere," Collegio said.

Instead, the group announced Wednesday it would spend $6.8 million over the next 10 days in several swing states likely to determine the outcome of the presidential contest. The new ad, mocking Obama's campaign slogan, "Forward," will air in states including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.

The ad accuses Obama of overspending and being responsible for "America's worst economic recovery ever."

"Obama racked up $5 trillion more in debt," the narrator says. "Is that really forward, or backward?"

American Crossroads and an affiliated group, Crossroads GPS, have been among the most prodigious advertisers in presidential politics this year, spending more than $106 million on ads to back Romney in swing states.

Another conservative independent group, Americans for Prosperity, is spending $6.2 million on ads criticizing Obama's health care reform law. The group, founded by billionaire oil magnate brothers David and Charles Koch, is running ads in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and North Carolina.

The group's latest ad, also released Wednesday, is the final piece of a $27 million effort in recent weeks to weaken Obama's re-election prospects. The ad features a Canadian woman who sought treatment in the U.S. for a life-threatening brain condition because she would have faced a months-long wait in Canada.

"Under President Obama, America's health care system is becoming more like the Canadian system," the ad says.

For his part, Crossroads' Collegio framed the decision to cease advertising in certain states in financial terms, not political.

"A statewide buy in Pennsylvania can cost more than buys in several other states combined," Collegio said.

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Associated Press writers Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., and Philip Elliott in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.

Follow Beth Fouhy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bfouhy

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