Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses supporters… (Emmanual Dunand, AFP/Getty…)
MORRISVILLE, Pa. — Trying to quilt together a patchwork of states that would give him the White House, Mitt Romney ricocheted around the country Sunday, arguing that he represented true change and that reelecting the president would mean a continuation of the status quo: chronic unemployment, high energy prices and increased dependence on government.
Romney said Obama had promised much but had fallen "so very short."
"Talk is cheap, but a record is real and it's measured in achievements," the Republican nominee said, bundled against the cold at his rally in a farm field.
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"The president thinks big government is the answer," Romney added. "No, Mr. President, more good jobs, that's the answer."
At that, tens of thousands of people who had gathered for the rally began chanting, "Send him home!"
The Romney appearance in the suburb of Philadelphia was his first in Pennsylvania since September, when he visited a military college. His wife, Ann, and his running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, have appeared here more recently, with Ryan visiting on Saturday.
Campaign officials clearly hoped that Romney's appearance, and Republicans' recent ad spending, would turn a state that Obama handily won in 2008.
Aside from one poll that shows the race tied, all other recent surveys show Obama comfortably holding onto Pennsylvania. But a win for Romney would offset a loss in Ohio — where Obama has held onto a steady, if extremely narrow, lead in polls — or losses in a collection of less-populated states such as Wisconsin, Nevada and Iowa.
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Though Romney has largely ignored Pennsylvania in recent months, his spokesman argued that his visit less than 48 hours before election day was perfectly timed because the state did not have early voting.
"It's a remarkable juxtaposition here that Mitt Romney will be in the suburbs of Philadelphia today and, you know, four years ago, Barack Obama was in Indiana," senior advisor Ed Gillespie said on ABC's "This Week", referring to the Republican-dominated state that Obama ultimately won in 2008. "When you look at where this map has gone, it reflects the change and the direction and the momentum toward Gov. Romney.... The map has expanded."
Democrats countered that the appearance in Pennsylvania, which has gone Democratic for two decades, was one of desperation as Romney grasped for a path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
"They understand they are in deep trouble," Obama senior strategist David Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday." "They're looking for somewhere, desperately looking for somewhere to try to dislodge some electoral votes to win this election, and I can tell you, that's not going to happen."
The scene in Pennsylvania reflected the drama at the end of the hard-fought presidential contest. Two cranes hoisted massive American flags; fireworks closed the rally.
"This audience and your voices are being heard all over the nation. You're being heard in my heart," Romney said. "People of America understand, we're taking back the White House because we're going to win Pennsylvania."
Romney also made what has become a familiar pitch from both candidates as election day nears.
"Now let's make sure every single person we know gets out and votes on Tuesday," he said. "What makes this rally and all your work so inspiring is because you're here because you care about America. This is a campaign about our country and the future we're going to leave to our children. We thank you and we ask you to stay at it all the way till victory on Tuesday night."
Romney also campaigned Sunday in front of large crowds in Iowa and Ohio, where polling shows Obama holds a slim edge. And he held a late-night rally in Virginia, where the race appears to be even.
A Des Moines Register poll released Saturday showed the president ahead by 5 percentage points in Iowa. But Republicans noted that the same poll four years ago overstated Obama's support in the state, which he won by nearly 10 percentage points.
In addition to six electoral votes, Iowa holds symbolic significance for both candidates: Its first-in-the-nation caucuses launched Obama's bid in 2008 and proved difficult for Romney in 2008 and this year.
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said while introducing the GOP nominee in Des Moines that the state that made Obama would take him down.
"Iowans feel betrayed. Almost a sense of — not only disappointed, but almost a sense of betrayal that our principles of sound budgeting and responsible government have been ignored by this administration for four straight years," Branstad said, adding: "It's time for a change. It's time for you to go back to Chicago."
Romney, speaking at the Hy-Vee Hall, urged his supporters to reach out to disenchanted backers of the president and persuade them that a change in direction was vital for the nation's future.
"I need your vote; I need your work; I need your help. Walk with me. We'll walk together. Let's begin anew. I need Iowa," he said.