To swing or not to swing? Mitt Romney is returning to Pennsylvania a month after his last visit to the state.
Tracing President Barack Obama’s footsteps, Romney arrives in battleground western Pennsylvania on Tuesday afternoon where he’ll use a company involved in natural gas drilling as a backdrop for a campaign speech on energy and job creation.
This month, Obama campaigned at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh as one of his early stops on a bus tour focused on bolstering the middle class. Romney will hold a public rally at Horizontal Wireline Services in Irwin, Westmoreland County and after a private fundraiser in Pittsburgh.
To push back against the stream of attacks by the Obama campaign questioning Romney’s role at the helm of the private-equity firm Bain Capital, the Romney campaign this week began their own barrage, accusing the president of prioritizing favors to political donors over creating jobs.
The Romney team’s choice of a company invested in natural gas exploration allows him to highlight contrasts with Obama on energy policy while boasting his campaign’s attack of the week. He’s likely to bring up the Obama administration’s loans to the now bankrupt solar energy company, Solyndra, which Republicans accused the White House of supporting because a handful of high-profile donors were involved with the company. The Obama administration has strongly defended the loan.
Obama campaign press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters aboard Air Force One that they were “old, tired, haggard attacks” from the Romney team desperate to “change the conversation because he doesn’t want to answer questions about his time at Bain Capital.”
The choice of Westmoreland County is also a politically important one. The suburbs of Pittsburgh, where blue-collar, conservative Democrats are considered up for grabs, is where both Obama and Romney hope to undercut the other in Pennsylvania, though it’s become increasingly more Republican in recent years.
Former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, the Republican who gave Romney his toughest run in the presidential primary, lost the county to Democrat Bob Casey in 2006. Santorum christened the opening of the Romney camp’s Westmoreland Victory office on Saturday for his first high profile event as a Romney surrogate.
Echoing what Democrats and Republicans alike have said about the importance of the Keystone State in presidential politics, Santorum told a crowd that if Pennsylvania goes Republican, “Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States.”