The Washington Post

Romney eyes Obama’s lead in Pa., hits rival on foreign policy, economy

— Mitt Romney journeyed to a military college here Friday, aiming to make Pennsylvania a more competitive election battleground and tearing into President Obama on foreign and domestic policy in a speech delivered before a backdrop of stoic, uniformed cadets.

The Republican presidential nominee charged that Obama has failed to lead both abroad, during a year of tumult in the Middle East, and on the home front, through a prolonged economic recession.

“The president wants to go down the same path he’s been on for the last four years,” Romney said. “He wants to keep the status quo. I don’t think we can afford four more years like the last four years. The president calls his campaign slogan ‘Forward.’ I call it ‘Forewarned,’ all right? We know where it heads; we don’t want to go there.”

Romney rallied supporters on the campus of Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Delaware County, a key swing area in the Philadelphia suburbs. He said he thought he would win Pennsylvania, despite Obama’s comfortable lead here — Obama is ahead of Romney by eight percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls — and despite the fact that neither campaign is airing television advertisements in the state.

“I’ve got a little secret here, and that is that the Obama campaign thinks Pennsylvania is in their pocket [and] they don’t need to worry about it,” Romney said. His crowd of several hundred booed. “You’re right and they’re wrong,” he responded. “We’re going to win Pennsylvania. We are going to take the White House!”

As he began his speech here, Romney said it was an honor “to be at this extraordinary place that so many presidents past have visited and, well, a president future is visiting today.”

Then he went on the attack.

“I don’t know how a single person who goes to this institution could consider voting for the incumbent for president,” Romney said. He argued that Obama would cut the military budget by $1 trillion over the next decade and that cadets looking for a regular job after graduation would have trouble finding one.

The defense cuts Romney referred to are automatic spending cuts that would go into effect next year if Congress does not agree to a long-term plan to reduce the deficit. Obama has said that he, too, opposes the so-called sequestration cuts.

The Obama campaign responded to Romney’s remarks by charging that he had “failed to meet the bar of honesty today.”

“Mitt Romney’s campaign said that they wouldn’t be dictated by fact checkers, and that much was clear from his remarks in Pennsylvania today,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “He falsely accused the President of supporting automatic defense cuts that could be prevented if Republicans in Congress, including Romney’s running mate, would drop their refusal to ask for a penny more from millionaires and billionaires.”

Romney’s speech also hit the president on foreign policy. Obama, Romney said, is not providing real leadership as deadly protests sweep the Middle East. “As we’ve seen over the last year, the world needs American leadership,” he said. “I think we look around and say: Why is it we are at the mercy of events? Why are we not shaping events?”

Romney also insisted that he would not raise taxes on the middle class, rebutting a line of attack from the Obama campaign.

“I don’t want to raise taxes on the American people, not when our economy’s in the kind of trouble it’s in,” Romney said. “I will not raise taxes on middle-income Americans.”

Earlier Friday, Romney was bullish about his chances in this state during a breakfast fundraiser in Philadelphia. “I’m going to win Pennsylvania, and I’m going to become the next president of the United States,” he boasted to a couple hundred donors.

As his motorcade left that fundraiser at the Union League Club downtown, several dozen protesters were singing, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye!”

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.

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