Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt… (Steven Senne / AP Photo )
Reporting from Harrisburg, Pa. — Mitt Romney’s evolution from Republican primary partisan to general election candidate has begun in earnest. Thursday morning, on the rooftop of an old downtown office building here that houses his Pennsylvania headquarters, Romney signaled the start of his efforts to reach across party lines to voters in the middle of the political spectrum, those who will be critical to his chances in a race against President Obama.
“I really appreciate your willingness to come out here today and spend some time with me,” Romney told a group of supporters who had gathered on a rooftop deck on a flawless spring morning. “I know that you know how important this is. That it isn’t about one person or about even one party. We’re Republicans and Democrats in this campaign, but we’re all connected with one destiny for America, and that destiny is greatness and exceptionalism. We have a president who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps, or maybe just not enough time working in the real world.”
The elitism argument against Obama continues to hold certain perils for Romney. The liberal website ThinkProgress noted almost immediately that Romney holds twice as many degrees from Harvard as Obama — Romney has a Harvard MBA and law degree; Obama has only a law degree.
Following important victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia this week, Romney’s last couple of appearances have had the air of a victory lap. But on Thursday, he seemed to hedge his bets a little bit, telling reporters who watched him call supporters from a phone bank that he expects the state’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum, to carry Pennsylvania on April 24.
“I think everybody expects someone to win his home state,” said Romney, sitting between campaign volunteers Jordan Furr, 20, and Sherrie-Kaye Miller, 51, who did their best not to let his presence distract them from their phone calls to likely Republican voters. “Newt Gingrich won his home state, I won mine,” said Romney. “I think people expect the senator to win his home state. But I hope to pick up a lot of delegates and we have several of the states in the contest on the same day, I would like to win all of those, and if I could win the others and pick up some delegates here, it would give me an even stronger lead,” Romney said.
The phone bank provided a moment of orchestrated spontaneity for the candidate, who sometimes comes across as uncomfortable during ordinary interactions. The small room was decorated with Romney signs and the kind of faux hand-lettered signs that are a campaign staple (“Ann for First Lady,” “Mitt = More Jobs”). As soon as Romney entered, he sat down and plunged right into the phone calls, using a cellphone provided by the campaign. He did not acknowledge the four volunteers on the phone bank until after he’d made his calls.
Holding a pen in order not to lose his spot as he went down a list of names and numbers, Romney called three voters, all of whom were apparently already planning to vote for him on April 24. “These are obviously stacked calls,” he said. “I am getting very positive response.”
His side of the first call went like this: “Good morning, Lois. This is Mitt Romney calling. How are you this morning? Well, good. Have you ever heard of me? You have, huh? [He laughed.] Well thank you. It sounds like you plan on supporting me, is that right? Well, wonderful, I appreciate your willingness to help out... I will hopefully get a chance to see you at a rally someday. Thanks so much Lois. Bye-bye.”
Afterward, he told reporters that Lois “was a person who said she believes I am the right person to be president, that I can save the country. I thought that was a pretty good start.”
Original source: Romney beginning to reach across party lines in Pennsylvania