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Mitt Romney predicts he will end Democratic Pa. winning streak

Karen Langley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette –

CORNWALL, PA. — Mitt Romney sounded confident on Saturday as he told Pennsylvania supporters, his Republican Party leaders among them, that he will break the streak of Democrats carrying the state in presidential elections.

With Gov. Tom Corbett and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey standing nearby, Mr. Romney told supporters gathered outside a historic iron furnace that he knew what U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Chester, had told them a few minutes earlier.

“He said that you guys need to convince me I can win Pennsylvania,” Mr. Romney said. “I’ve got news for you, Congressman: I am going to win Pennsylvania.”

If he does, he will become the first Republican presidential candidate to do so since 1988, when George H.W. Bush carried the state. Pennsylvania was the second state in a bus tour Mr. Romney kicked off on Friday in New Hampshire and continues today in Ohio. Like the remaining stops on the schedule — in Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan — they are states President Barack Obama won in 2008 but that Mr. Romney hopes to swing his way.

Mr. Corbett reminded the crowd of the state’s role in U.S. history as he asked them to help deliver Mr. Romney to the White House.

“We’re at the Cornwall furnace. They made cannonballs for the revolution here,” the governor said. “In Philadelphia, we signed the Declaration of Independence. The first capital of the United States was here in Pennsylvania. And we [can] start turning this state red, this country red, right here.”

The people standing outside the historic buildings cheered for Mr. Romney and wore stickers with his name, but several said they could not predict which way the state will go. Diane Plappert, a retired Navy commander who lives in York, said the conservative central portion of the state would have to outweigh Democratic strongholds in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“We’re sticking to our guns and our religion,” she said. “That’s the part of Pennsylvania you’re in. Are we in the middle here enough to sway either end? I have no idea.”

To Ms. Plappert, the comment by Mr. Obama during the 2008 campaign that small-town Pennsylvania voters “cling to guns or religion” still rankles. “It’s unfortunate Obama found that something to ding us about. I think it speaks poorly of him. We don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of.”

Doug Seiders, a Reading resident who works in manufacturing, said he thinks if people ask themselves how they’re doing now, compared to 2008, Mr. Romney could win the state.

“I know that Pennsylvania’s been traditionally a Democratic state for president,” he said. “But this year … I think it’s going to be a lot closer than it used to be. I think a lot of people are hurting.”

The Cornwall rally was Mr. Romney’s third event of the day, and as he delivered his standard remarks about the role of government and business in the economy, he put to use some new knowledge from ordering a sandwich at a Quakertown Wawa service store just south of Allentown.

“You press a little touch-tone keypad. … Touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier, there’s your sandwich,” he said. “It’s amazing. People in the private sector have learned how to compete. It’s time to bring some competition to the federal government and to get it smaller and able to respond to the customers, which are you.”

The campaign had planned to visit a different Wawa store in Quakertown but made a detour when it discovered former Gov. Ed Rendell and other Democrats gathered there.

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