HARRISBURG - On the minds of Pennsylvania's top Republicans when they press Mitt Romney to return to the state and bring his millions of dollars in TV ads is a simple message: Help yourself, help us.
They insist Romney can beat the president in Pennsylvania in the Nov. 6 election if he campaigns aggressively here, despite independent polls showing Romney trailing Democratic President Barack Obama in the state. Also on their minds are the fortunes of every other state Republican candidate.
Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said he makes the case every day to Romney's advisers to bring their campaign to Pennsylvania.
"Is he campaigning for everybody else? No," Gleason said. "But I think the most important thing it does is it drives the intensity among the volunteers and people who work for the entire ticket."
In political parlance, it's the "coattails" theory - the better Romney does, the better every other Republican candidate will do.
For Romney, a loss in Pennsylvania by 1 vote or by 1 million votes each adds up to the same thing: Losing all of Pennsylvania's valuable 20 electoral college votes. But a heavy investment of time and money in Pennsylvania by Romney - whether he wins or loses - could mean the difference between winning and losing for some other Republican candidates, Republicans say.
In the most recent independent polls, top-of-the-ticket Republicans - Romney, plus candidates for U.S. Senate and the state's treasurer, auditor general and attorney general - are trailing Democrats, in some cases by double-digit percentage-point margins.
Voter enthusiasm for the parties seems to be running about even, pollsters say. Still, Democrats hold a four-to-three registration edge over Republicans, they've signed up more new voters this year, 370,000 to 260,000, and through Wednesday had requested more absentee ballots, 63,000 to 54,000, according to Department of State statistics.
In Congress, Republicans are unlikely to lose any of the 12 of 18 Pennsylvania seats they currently hold, and the GOP is unlikely to lose the majorities it holds in the state Legislature, thanks to the Republicans' ability to draw districts that favor their party candidates.
"Campaigns matter," said Christopher Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "If you're working hard, spending time and money cultivating voters, you can move the polls. ... I have no doubt that if Mitt Romney were committing to the state, he can make it closer. How much closer is difficult to say because I'm sure the president would be here at the same time."
For now, the Romney campaign apparently has decided to spend time and money in swing states including Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado.
G. Terry Madonna, a professor of public affairs and pollster at Franklin and Marshall College, said a big concern for Republicans now is the appearance that Romney has conceded Pennsylvania to Obama.
"They cannot concede the state," Madonna said. "The simple reason is that they don't want voter turnout to fall off, which in theory could endanger the down-ballot seats."
Gleason insists Romney has not conceded Pennsylvania. Romney has not told Gleason that he would be back, but the Romney campaign also has not told Gleason it will not be campaigning in Pennsylvania either, Gleason said.
Romney is choosing to concentrate on early voting states where the race is close, and the presidential candidate could turn his attention to Pennsylvania once balloting is heavily under way in other battleground states, he said.
In any case, the state party continues to send Romney flyers to households and get grassroots-organizing money from the Republican National Committee, he said.
"They're keeping us warm," Gleason said.