WAYNE, Pa. — Mitt Romney courted military cadets and top-dollar donors on Friday as he declared Pennsylvania up for grabs in the November election — a state where the campaign is not running television ads and where poll numbers suggest that Friday's pit stop appeared to be more about raising the money needed to compete in more hotly-contested battleground states.
Fresh off the previous night's $5 million fundraiser in Washington, D.C., the former Massachusetts governor kicked off his day with another fundraiser in Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold.
"You know, we really would shock people if early in the evening on Nov. 6 it looked like Pennsylvania was going to come our way and actually did come our way. That could happen," Mr. Romney told about 300 supporters who had paid at much as $50,000 per person to attend the fundraising event. "That could happen."
Later at Valley Forge Military Academy and College, Mr. Romney warned the cadets that if they vote to give President Obama another term in November they will be voting for a future of "more debt, fewer jobs and a smaller military."
He also vowed to reverse the automatic defense cuts included in the bipartisan debt deal that Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney's running mate Paul Ryan supported last year — a deal that allowed Congress to increase the nation's borrowing limit.
Mr. Romney also hammered Mr. Obama over his comments regarding recent unrest in the Middle East.
"I don't consider 20,000 or 30,000 people who died in Syria just a bump in the road, or Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt a bump in the road," he said, alluding to Mr. Obama's characterization of the ongoing turmoil in the region. "I don't consider the killing of our diplomats in Libya as a bump in the road, and I sure as heck don't consider Iran becoming nuclear a bump in the road. We need someone who recognizes the seriousness of what is ahead and is willing to lead."
"The administration has characterized their foreign policy as leading from behind. I call that 'following.' It is time for America to lead and we will lead again," he said.
Mr. Romney has just one more event penciled in — Monday in Colorado — before he walks onto the stage in Denver for the first of three debates with Mr. Obama in October, a much-anticipated showdown that some see as perhaps the Republican's best chance to turn the tide after a couple weeks in which he has seen his stock slip in the polls following a caught-on-camera moment where he appeared to write off half of the electorate.
The Romney camp had hoped to expand their electorate map by competing in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — states that Mr. Obama won handily in 2008 and that have not voted for a Republicans presidential candidate since in more than 20 years.
There are signs though that the Keystone State has slipped out of the Republican's reach.
For starters, Mr. Romney's visit here marked the first time he had campaigned in the state since mid-July. On top of that, he has been absent from the airwaves here in recent weeks.
Christopher Borick, political science professor and pollster at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said that compared to the campaigns of his Republican predecessors — George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain — Mr. Romney is showing a low level of attention to the state at this point in the race that is "unprecedented."
"Because of its demographics, Pennsylvania is a state where you would expect some good competition, but that requires candidates to come in here and work hard," Mr. Borick said. "And the sheer lack of any ads by Romney or the GOP 'super PACs' for the last month gives the impression that it is not in play."
A Muhlenberg College/Morning Call newspaper poll released Friday showed that Mr. Obama had opened up a 9-point lead here — and that Mr. Romney's unfavorable rating was hovering just under 50 percent.
The Romney camp, though, received some positive news last week when the Tribune-Review newspaper released a poll showing Mr. Obama holding onto a two-point lead.
But that survey has proved to be an outlier and the latest Real Clear Politics average of Pennsylvania polls shows Mr. Obama with an 8-point lead with just over a month to go until Election Day.
"The battleground map presents many opportunities right now, Pennsylvania being one of them," said Kevin Madden, a top Romney adviser. "Ultimately, we are trying to get to 270 electoral votes and we think Pennsylvania can play a part in getting us there.
"As part of our effort to compete across a bunch of states, it helps that we have great fundraising support there," Mr. Madden said. "The resources we raise there can help us compete with Obama everywhere else and we can also use our travel there to make inroads with voters in the crucial Philadelphia suburbs."
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