Mitt Romney would love to follow Bill Clinton's path to the White House. At least until they start to count the votes tonight, he'll have to content himself with following the former president to Pittsburgh.
As the hours before Election Day approached single digits, a yearslong campaign exhausted itself with final, predictable ads; swing state appearances; and exhortations to final get-out-the-vote efforts.
Mr. Clinton, who has emerged as the Obama campaign's surrogate-in-chief since his tour de force appearance at the Democrats' Charlotte, N.C., convention, made the case for the president's re-election again Monday at a lunchtime rally in Market Square. In an eleventh-hour scheduling decision, Mr. Romney's campaign announced that he would stop in the Pittsburgh region for a final pitch for the votes.
The former Massachusetts governor will appear at 2:55 p.m. at Atlantic Aviation Services at Pittsburgh International Airport.
His campaign and its allies have made a late, expensive bet on the state with heavy spending and hours of Mr. Romney's increasingly precious time. He drew a reported crowd of 30,000 to a Bucks County farm Sunday night, and will make one of his final stops in the region today. It was a measure of the haste of the scheduling decision that the Romney campaign had still not released details of the event early Monday evening.
President Barack Obama and Mr. Romney spent their final full day of campaigning in more familiar territory, crisscrossing the more established battleground state that has been their focus for months. Both campaigned again Monday in pivotal Ohio. Mr. Obama courted voters in Wisconsin and was scheduled to end the last day of his final campaign in Iowa, the state that opened his road to the White House with his stunning caucus night victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton, now his secretary of state, on a frigid evening in 2008. Recent polling has found the incumbent with narrow leads in each of those states, including Ohio.
Mr. Romney campaigned up and down the Eastern Seaboard with stops in Virginia and Florida, and also Ohio, before a late-night rally in New Hampshire. While all of those states figure in most scenarios of how he would reach a 270-vote Electoral College majority, Florida is the only one in which he appeared to hold a narrow polling advantage. His campaign announced late Monday that he would also make Election Day stops in Cleveland as well as Pittsburgh.
Until recent days, speculation on the Republican's pathways to victory have not included Pennsylvania. Democrats pointed out that he has yet to lead or tie in any pubic poll of the state over the last year. But Republicans found seeds for optimism in several recent public polls that showed a narrowing of Mr. Obama's persistent lead in a state that's eluded GOP presidential nominees since President George H.W. Bush's win here in 1988.
Desiree Peterkin Bell, an Obama communications adviser, greeted the news of Mr. Romney's planned last-minute foray into the state with a statement predicting that he would join the list of Republicans rebuffed by Pennsylvania.
"Mitt Romney recognizes that Ohio has moved away from him, and without it he has no plausible path to 270 electoral votes. A few days of campaigning and an avalanche of special interest-funded negative TV ads will not save Romney from his policies of the past that crashed the economy and punished the middle class," she said.
But Mr. Clinton's appearance in Market Square, the first of four get-out-the-vote rallies across the state Monday, showed that the Democrats were taking no chances. In his new role as surrogate-in-chief, Mr. Clinton was barnstorming the state, heading from the Downtown event to a list of Eastern Pennsylvania stops that would end in the Palestra, the University of Pennsylvania's storied basketball arena in West Philadelphia.
His voice betraying the toll of his heavy campaign schedule, Mr. Clinton told the crowd, "To me the election is fairly simple. Who is more likely to restore the middle class and give people a chance to work their way into it, to build a 21st century economy with the good jobs of tomorrow? ... I think it's the candidate who got off the campaign trail and got to work on Hurricane Sandy" with Republicans and Democrats alike.
"I want a candidate who saved the American auto industry," he said, before renewing his criticism of a controversial Romney ad that suggested Chrysler planned to increase Jeep production in China at the expense of Ohio.
"You cannot have a president who will deliberately misrepresent the truth to the working people of America and scare them just to get a few votes," he said.
Joining him under gray, cold skies were partisans including Sen. Bob Casey, who is facing a surprisingly robust challenge from GOP businessman Tom Smith, and Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, who is battling to defend his newly drawn district against Republican Keith Rothfus.
Mr. Critz introduced the former president, who has made multiple appearances for him in the past. But while his Clinton ties are strong, the embattled incumbent has conspicuously kept his distance from the White House. Monday may have been the first time in this campaign that he had appeared at an Obama event.
Among the other partisans who appeared with Mr. Clinton were Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO; Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills; Leo Gerard, president of the USW; and Joe Grushecky, the rock guitarist who had appeared with Bruce Springsteen at an Oakland concert and rally last weekend. Mr. Grushecky was opening for the ex-president as his pal Mr. Springsteen was spending the day as the opening act for the current one, accompanying Mr. Obama on Air Force One.
After his late appearance in Des Moines, the president planned to head home to Chicago. His Election Day campaigning would consist chiefly of a series of interviews with radio and television outlets in swing state markets. From his last-minute stops in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Mr. Romney planned to head back to Boston, awaiting the returns in the state he'd governed.mobilehome - nation - neigh_city - electionspresident
Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562. First Published November 6, 2012 5:00 AM