Romney’s Pennsylvania volunteers: It’s for real

PHILADELPHIA -- Linda Mannherz received word from the Romney campaign a couple of days ago that she had been tapped to be among the handful of people to greet the candidate upon his arrival in Pennsylvania.

She said the timing and venue for Romney's Pennsylvania rally had been up in the air -- but that the opportunity was one that she would not pass up, regardless of where the event was held.

"If he were going to be in Honolulu, I'd go to Honolulu," Mannherz, a 59-year-old interior design business owner from Wrightstown, said as she sat aboard one of three Romney campaign press buses heading from Philadelphia Airport to the candidate's event 45 minutes away in Morrisville.

Mannherz was one of half a dozen greeters who had been unexpectedly directed by campaign aides to take a seat aboard one of the press buses, which typically shuttle TV and print reporters, producers and photographers from the candidate's jet to the venue and back again.

As the motorcade sped north along Route 95, she and other volunteers who had waited several hours to greet Romney in the cold Philadelphia night offered an optimistic take on the GOP ticket's chances in this blue state.

"We're the ground folks; we've been doing the door-knocking," explained Mannherz, who said she had been volunteering with the campaign "very intensely for two months."

Did she think the Romney effort was too little too late?

Not at all, she said.

"I think it was a brilliant strategy. ... I think that they saw they were getting great responses and seized on the moment," she said, adding that "it will pay off."

Whether things play out that way on Tuesday -- and whether the Romney camp's play for the state was in fact a decision made in light of the candidate's rising momentum after the first debate -- remains to be seen.

Democrats, naturally, had a different take. Late Sunday, just as Romney touched down in the state, the Obama campaign emailed out to the press a report that Republicans had only invested money in advertising in the Keystone State because the airwaves elsewhere in the country were already saturated.

But if early reports from volunteers on the rally's size were any indication, the event could be one of Romney's largest to date on the campaign trail.

"When you get set up there, you'll see 30,000 people, the governor, lieutenant governor," said Pidge Smith, a 65-year-old retiree and longtime volunteer from Nackamixon Township who was seated next to Mannherz at the back of the bus.

"It's 100 percent," she added.

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Sean Sullivan · November 4, 2012

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