HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Preaching the gospel of jobs, Republican Ronald Reagan has chiseled into President Carter's support among blue collar Democrats in a strong bid to capture industrial Pennsylvania, party and labor officials say.
But the GOP is concerned that many liberal Republicans, especially those on Philadelphia's fashionable Main Line, may desert to independent John Anderson and give the race to the Democrats.
The latest polls indicate the race is dead even, although registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by 700,000.
'Pennsylvania is a classic swing state,' said Republican Gov. Dick Thornburgh.
If there was a bellwhether in 1976, it was Pennsylvania, a state of 11 million people, where the results perfectly reflected the two point margin of Carter's victory nationwide.
Daniel Horgan, Carter's campaign manager in Pennsylvania, said he's running a street-wise operation to secure the state's 27 electoral votes, the third largest total among the 50 states.
'We should be able to win a squeaker, because we've got a good get-out-the-vote operation,' said Horgan.
'We'll have sound trucks on the streets on election day and Carter greeters at the polls, little old-fashioned things. If Mrs. Jones is in the hospital, we're getting her an absentee ballot,' said Horgan.
Horgan and Reagan's Pennsylvania campaign chairman, Richard Fox, agree Reagan has cut into Carter's support in northeast coal and textile region of the state anchored by Scranton, a largely ethnic-Catholic city. Polls have shown Reagan as far as 15 percentage points ahead there.
'We can't win without Democratic votes, and we believe Reagan has strong appeal in the ethnic communities that are fundamentally Democratic,' said Fox, who noted Reagan is campaigning vigorously in the state with visits so far to Philadelphia's Cardinal Krol and city shipyard workers.
James Mahoney, vice president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said the federation's political committee is holding a series of meetings around the state with AFL-CIO leaders to stress the need for a Carter victory.
Mahoney noted that most blue-collar sections of the state, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh's steel valleys, have remained more solidly behind Carter than the Northeast.
'When you go to the Northeast, because of the difficulty people have had with the coal and needle industries, it's jobs. It's the issue that always has people down in the mouth,' he said.
Mahoney said if Pennsylvania, with its large electoral vote, is decisive in the presidential race nationwide, then it may well be Scranton that throws the race to Carter or Reagan within the Keystone State.
The hitch for Reagan in a close race is the attitude of independent-minded liberal Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs who have never shown enthusiasm for Reagan and voted for his opponent almost 2-1 in the state primary April 22.
'Reagan is a product of the conservative movement, and he's not a product of the Eastern Establishment. Well, the Main Line is the Eastern Establishment,' said Faith Ryan Whittlesey, a political leader from suburban Haverford.
In Pennsylvania, polls show Anderson taking away as many votes from Reagan as Carter in the GOP-rich Philadelphia suburbs.
And annoying to both parties is the high number of undecided voters in the state _ ranging from 20 percent upward depending on the poll.
Jane Fowler, Anderson's campaign manager here, said the large undecided vote, combined with the fact neither Carter nor Reagan won the state's primary, give the Illinois congressman a chance in Pennsylvania.
However, Mayor William Green Jr. of Philadelphia, the state's leading Kennedy supporter, is leading the dissidents into line behind the president.
And Reagan has picked up the enthusastic support of the relatively liberal Thornburgh, a very popular political figure in the state, in hopes of keeping the liberal Republicans in the party.
In another major election, Democrats have a good chance of recapturing a Democratic seat in the United States Senate. Former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty is leading the GOP's Arlen Specter, ex-district attorney in Philadlephia, in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Schweiker, R-Pa.