Romney draws cheers in return to battleground Pa.

Posted: September 29, 2012

Mitt Romney made a bold prediction Friday during his first public campaign stop in months in a state where polls show him lagging and that GOP insiders say he has all but given up.

"We're going to take Pennsylvania," he promised an animated crowd at Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne.

His assessment earlier in the day at a Union League fund-raiser in Philadelphia was sober, yet optimistic.

"We really would shock people if early in the evening on Nov. 6, it looked like Pennsylvania was going to come our way," he told donors before adding that he was confident he could do it.

Whether those remarks amounted to mere campaign bluster or signaled a late reassessment of the Republican presidential candidate's chances in the Keystone State remained anyone's guess.

"I wish I could say," said one state GOP leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But coming back to Pennsylvania is certainly a good step."

Recent polls have almost consistently shown President Obama pulling ahead by seven to 12 points in the battle for Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes.

And last month, a pair of Romney-affiliated super PACs suspended all advertising in the state, opting to focus their resources in places the former Massachusetts governor appeared more competitive.

But Pennsylvania GOP leaders have sought for weeks to convince the national campaign that it's too early to give up.

As well-heeled donors at the Union League munched Friday morning on fruit parfaits in stem glasses, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) reminded the crowd of another come-from-behind victory.

"All the smart guys were convinced that Pat Toomey couldn't possibly win a general election in Pennsylvania," he said. "Remember that?"

If any group is likely to deliver Romney a Pennsylvania win, it will be the fiscally minded but socially liberal Republicans who dominate Philadelphia's suburbs, said GOP strategist Charlie Gerow.

"In many ways, he's the tailor-made candidate for the suburban Philadelphia counties," he said. "It's a constituency to which he and his message are well suited."

A mixed crowd of older suburbanites and students from nearby Villanova University and Cabrini College packed an assembly hall at the Valley Forge academy, chanting, "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!"

As Romney delivered a stump speech critical of planned military cuts, Obama's policy in the Middle East, and the administration's record on the economy, the crowd hooted and hollered with an excitement not seen in his past campaign stops in the region.

"I know why you're here," he addressed them. "You're concerned about the road the president's got America on. I know where it leads. It leads to where Greece and Italy and Spain are. I'm going to put this country on a very different path."

The line that garnered the loudest response came when Romney vowed to push through the Keystone XL Pipeline, a Republican pet project, "even if I have to build it myself."

With their own candidate in Washington, Pennsylvania Democrats were loathe to grant Romney a day's advantage in the state.

About 30 protesters, chanting, "Hey you, billionaires, pay your fair share," marched outside the Philadelphia fund-raiser.

Meanwhile, two of the party's most popular regional personalities, former Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, stood ready nearby to paint Romney as insensitive to the plight of the middle class - and offer one unsolicited, if backhanded, piece of advice.

"I think they should invest in Pennsylvania right now," said Rendell. Considering "where they are in the polls in other battleground states, they might as well come back here."


Contact Jeremy Roebuck

at 267-564-5218 or jroebuck@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @jeremyrroebuck.

Pool reports from the Allentown Morning Call contributed

to this article.

|
|
|
|
|