PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The fight to win Pennsylvania brought former President Bill Clinton to the battleground state on Monday, as he campaigned in the state's biggest cities to help Democrats try to fend off an aggressive, last-ditch attempt by Republicans to capture its prized 20 electoral votes.
In near-freezing temperatures in downtown Pittsburgh, Clinton played up President Barack Obama's efforts to save the American auto industry and his work with governors to respond to last week's destructive storm. In Philadelphia, he told a raucous crowd at the University of Pennsylvania's Palestra sports arena "to vote for your hopes and not for your fears."
Clinton, perhaps Obama's most powerful and popular advocate, came as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and conservative groups make an expensive, 11th-hour plunge into Pennsylvania to try to erode the support for Obama from four years ago.
The state is a key stepping stone for Democrats to the White House: No Democrat has won the presidency without Pennsylvania in 64 years. Pennsylvanians also will decide a U.S. Senate race in Tuesday's election that could help determine control of the chamber. Underscoring the state's importance, Romney announced an Election Day stop in Pittsburgh. Clinton ended the trip Monday night with a packed rally at a high school gym in Scranton, the hometown of Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Democratic attorney general nominee Kathleen Kane.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania's other U.S. senator, Republican Pat Toomey, led GOP Senate nominee Tom Smith and attorney general nominee David Freed in a cross-state hopscotch as they greeted Republican gatherings in every TV market.
Clinton was greeted by chanting, cheering college students who packed the Palestra.
"The America I have been fighting for since I was a boy is on the line," Clinton told them. "The future of America in the 21st century is on the line. ... I want you to wake up in the morning with a smile on your face, a song in your heart and a spring in your step, because America is coming back."
In Pittsburgh, a hoarse Clinton gave a high-energy pitch in the 38-degree chill to a crowd of hundreds, questioning Romney's opposition to support for the auto industry and praising Obama for bringing troops home from Iraq.
"I want the candidate who decided to save the American auto industry," Clinton said. Pennsylvania has about 40,000 jobs tied to carmaking, according to an industry group.
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