Many in the crowd, though, didn't stay to hear Romney's speech. Attendees streamed out of the event even as the Republican nominee spoke — he had been delayed for more than an hour and a half at his previous stop, in Cleveland, leaving the thousands in Pennsylvania to wait for his campaign bus to arrive.
After Romney arrived, a Secret Service agent, concerned about security, prevented people from leaving the event, cordoned off by metal security barriers. Attendees complained of needing to use restrooms; one was concerned about a child who had gotten too cold.
Once Romney campaign staffers were informed, volunteers began escorting small groups of people out. Agents insisted that they not be allowed to leave en masse. More people wanted to leave than could be quickly accommodated.
"I feel like I've been let out of jail," said one man as he walked away from the barriers.
Pennsylvania is a state that's proved difficult for Republicans. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 4-3. Despite trying, no Republican presidential candidate has won the state since 1988. The closest was in 2004, when President George W. Bush came up 2.5 percentage points short of John Kerry.
Romney's push comes as neighboring New Jersey has been crushed by Superstorm Sandy, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie has embraced Obama and the millions in federal emergency relief the state will need to recover. Eastern Pennsylvania voters, who often can watch local news from either Philadelphia or New York, have recently been treated to images of the president shouldering his duties as commander in chief and comforting families who have lost everything.
Romney was clearly aware of that reality as he campaigned in a town just a few miles from the Jersey border.
"Thanks also to the governors that are dealing with this tragedy, particularly the governor of New Jersey, Gov. Christie," Romney said Sunday, some of his only recent words of praise for a man he considered picking for his running mate. "He's giving it all of his heart and his passion to help the people of his state. They're in a hard way, and we appreciate his hard work."
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