Republican Mitt Romney rode a bus through eastern Pennsylvania, promising a friendly regulatory climate for new energy jobs and industry to people in places that have seen decades of economic decline.
“The president wants to talk about the economy a little -- not as much as I want to talk about the economy,” Romney told the hundreds of people gathered today at the Weatherly Casting and Machine Co. in Weatherly, his first stop of the day. Obama’s recent comment that the private sector was “doing fine” runs counter to what businesspeople say, Romney said.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee worked to keep the focus on jobs a day after Obama took action to prevent the deportation of illegal immigrants. Romney also was dogged by protesters and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat and Obama supporter who prompted him to divert from a planned convenience-store meet-and-greet.
While “hope and change” was Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, Romney said, “Now I think he’d like to change it to ‘Hoping to Change the Subject.’”
Romney’s stop at the foundry and machine shop that employs 74 people came on the second day of his six-state, “Every Town Counts” bus tour through rural areas of states that Obama won in 2008. He was set to visit three towns in Pennsylvania today before flying to Ohio, where he’ll spend tomorrow, Father’s Day. His bus trip began yesterday in New Hampshire and will move next week to Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.
Romney also used the countryside as a backdrop for local interviews with local television stations, a C-SPAN interview and an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” scheduled for broadcast tomorrow. It’s Romney’s first national Sunday morning news show interview this election on a network other than Fox.
Mary Dunn, 60, a furniture store owner, said she looks to Romney to bring more jobs to “a very depressed area.”
“The mines, the factories, they’re gone,” she said.
Ronald Strohl, 72, a school bus driver, said that while he has concerns that Romney is “not conservative enough,” he’ll support him because “he’s more conservative than Obama.”
Obama and his family were taking a two-day break in their hometown of Chicago this weekend, attending a wedding, visiting friends and remaining out of the public spotlight.
Romney had planned to stop at a Wawa convenience store in Quakertown to meet locals and buy a hoagie, the regional term for a sandwich on a long roll that is called a submarine or a hero elsewhere. After Rendell and anti-Wall Street activists preempted him there, Romney’s campaign bus bypassed the store in favor of another Wawa in the same town.
The former Massachusetts governor, who paid for his meatball hoagie at the counter, told reporters that he decided to skip the first Wawa location because Rendell might as well be “my surrogate.” Rendell has said Obama is more likely than Romney to win Pennsylvania, though it’s not a sure thing. Romney characterized Rendell as saying that “I could win Pennsylvania -- so I’m happy to hear that.”
Speaking via satellite today to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual conference in Washington, Romney said the U.S. should help arm those in Syria fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad “by encouraging our friends there, like the Turks and the Saudis, to provide weapons to the insurgents.”
Romney criticized Obama’s approach on Syria as being “from a dispassionate distance” and suggested Obama wasn’t sufficiently tough on Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes of the 270 a candidate needs to win the presidency, has been a Democrat-leaning state in the presidential election. Obama won the state in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote and President George W. Bush’s challenger, Democrat John Kerry, won the state with 51 percent in 2004.
Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, has been a closer contest between the parties. Obama won Ohio four years ago with 52 percent, while Bush won Ohio with 51 percent in 2004.
In New Hampshire yesterday, Romney’s kickoff was undercut by Obama’s announcement that his administration would stop deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
If Obama “ really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these kids or illegal immigration in America, than this is something he would have taken up in his first 3.5 years, not in his last few months, Romney said in an excerpt from his ‘‘Face the Nation’’ released by CBS today.
Romney stayed off the subject in Weatherly. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who introduced Romney, just touched on the issue, questioning Obama’s timing without going after the policy. He said Obama took office in 2009 with a Democrat-controlled Congress and waited until ‘‘now, four months before the election’’ to take the approach.
Pennsylvania ranked 12th on the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index when assessed from the start of 2009.
The state through May added back 143,400 jobs of the 255,300 jobs it shed from April 2008 to February 2010.
At 7.4 percent, the state’s unemployment rate has improved from 8.7 percent in March 2010, while it remains higher than its April 2007 low of 4.2 percent.
Home prices statewide through March have declined by 5.77 percent since 2007, compared with 16.29 percent nationally.
The Bloomberg State Equity Index of Pennsylvania has 271 members, including Comcast Corp., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and HJ Heinz Co. Companies in the state through yesterday have outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Since the start of 2009, the Pennsylvania stock index has gone up 119.34 percent, compared with the 48.67 percent increase in the S&P.
‘‘I am going win Pennsylvania,” Romney told supporters at Cornwall Iron Furnace, a Lebanon County landmark that dates to 1742. “I’m going to get this economy going again.”
Roger Esbenshade, 49, a horticulturalist from nearby Lititz, said his area is “doing pretty good actually.” He said the 2008 economic crisis caused things to “worsen a little bit, but we never saw it as bad as some areas” in falling home values or unemployment.
Ohio ranked 5th on the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index when assessed from the start of 2009.
The state through May added back 157,300 jobs of the 438,200 jobs it shed from June 2007 to December 2009.
At 7.3 percent, the state’s unemployment rate has improved from 10.6 percent in January 2010, but remains higher than its 2007 average of 5.6 percent.
Home prices statewide through March have declined by 10.05 percent since 2007, compared with 16.29 percent nationally.
The Bloomberg State Equity Index of Ohio has 186 members, including Procter & Gamble Co., First Energy Corp. and American Electric Power Co. Companies in the state through Friday have outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Since the start of 2009, the Ohio stock index has increased by 67.74 percent, compared with a 48.67 percent increase in the S&P.