YARDLEY, Pa. (AP) — Philadelphia and its heavily populated suburbs were the big focus of candidates' attention on Sunday in Pennsylvania, just two days before voters pull the lever in a state that has emerged as a battleground for control of the White House and the U.S. Senate.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney headlined a Bucks County rally Sunday evening, capping an 11th-hour Republican blitz to win a state that has voted for Democrats in the last five presidential elections and many had believed its crucial 20 electoral votes would be in President Barack Obama's column this time around, too.
A crowd of thousands — some 32,000 free tickets were requested — waited several hours in 40-degree temperatures at a farm in the Philadelphia suburb of Yardley to hear Romney underscore his pledge to bring real change to Washington and improve the economy.
After an introduction by Gov. Tom Corbett, Romney told the crowd at Shady Brook Farm that, on Day One of his presidency, he'll send Congress a bill to cut spending and work to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
Greg Nelson, 45, a regular at local Republican rallies, had never seen Romney before and he made the half-hour drive from Croydon. Romney's promises to increase defense spending was a particular issue favored by Nelson, a U.S. Navy veteran who runs a hospital's heating and cooling systems and voted against Obama in 2008.
"I just like all the ideas Romney has with the military and that's what Barack Obama is against," Nelson said.
Earlier Sunday at a convention of the blue-collar Union of Operating Engineers Local 542 in the Philadelphia suburb of Fort Washington, both Republicans — U.S. Reps. Pat Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick — and Democrats — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and attorney general nominee Kathleen Kane — came to receive endorsements from a politically mixed crowd of hundreds.
At least one, Dan Young of Havertown, said he had not decided for whom to vote in the presidential race. The registered Republican voted for Obama in 2008, but is worried that the economy did not improve, as he had hoped it would when he voted for Obama four years ago. But a perceived Republican assault on the rights of labor unions also weighed on his mind, he said.
"I'm not really sure yet," the 50-year-old Young said. The union leaders "are going to tell us Obama for the union. It's the only place we're getting our jobs and (Republicans) are trying to crush it. ... We've got to stick together, because they're taking the rights away from the little guy. We can't all work at Wal-Mart."
He also lamented the decision in front of him. No one in Washington, D.C. seems willing to compromise, and the choice in the election seems to be between polarized sides that do nothing but fight, he said.