By Seth McLaughlin-The Washington Times
BRUNSWICK, Ohio â€”Â Mitt RomneyÂ is trying to do something thatÂ Sen. John McCain, theÂ Republican Partyâ€™s 2008 presidential nominee, could not shore up enough support among the rural, blue-collar voters in such Rust Belt states as Pennsylvania and Ohio to win theÂ White House.
The former Massachusetts governor chased after those voters over theFather’s DayÂ weekend as part of a six-state bus tour in which he bought a meatball hoagie at a gas station outside Philadelphia. He also tested the axiom that the way to a personâ€™s heart is through his stomach by serving pancakes to hungry voters in Cleveland suburbs.
Along with Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are the electoral battlegrounds that analysts say have been the key to the past three elections. If Republicans can win two of the three, they should find their path to theÂ White House.
Ohio traditionally has been the easier win for theÂ GOPÂ among those two Northern states, but new polling puttingÂ Mr. RomneyÂ within striking distance in Pennsylvania has Republicans thinking they might be able to sweep all three.
Christopher P. Borrick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., said Republicans dominated the 2010 elections in Pennsylvania and theÂ partyÂ has been able to reverse some of the losses in party registration it experienced at the end of the past decade.
â€œI think thatÂ RomneyÂ has some potential to make some headway among suburban Philadelphia voters who are fiscally conservative and not very enamored with the presidentâ€™s performance on the economy and budget matters,â€Â Mr. BorrickÂ said.
The blue-collar Rust Belt region has always been skeptical of Mr. Obama. He lost those voters toÂ Hillary Rodham ClintonÂ in the 2008 Democratic primary race after famously calling such voters in Pennsylvania â€œbitter,â€ saying â€œthey cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who arenâ€™t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.â€
The words about immigration might have been foreshadowing this yearâ€™s election. Mr. Obama announced Friday that he was halting deportations of most young illegal immigrants. How that plays in Ohio and Pennsylvania could be critical to determining the presidentâ€™s re-election.
â€œIt makes me furious,â€Â Denise Paolucci, a 52-year-old nurse from Ravenna, Ohio, said at the Brunswick event. She said that illegal immigrants fromÂ MexicoÂ tried to kidnap her two granddaughters.
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