With any luck, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said yesterday, Pennsylvania voters will have more of a chance next year to help pick their parties' presidential candidates.
"With so many Republican candidates for president, there's a possibility that this primary process will go on, not just until Feb. 6, but beyond that," Mr. Romney, one of almost a dozen candidates seeking the GOP nomination, said during a campaign stop at the Duquesne Club, Downtown.
"You're going to be one of the early primaries," he said, "and as a result, your support as a state could be the tipping point that gives me or perhaps even somebody else the chance to become the Republican nominee. ... There's not one person that has such a lead that you say, 'Well, he or she is obviously going to get the nomination.' That's true in both parties. This thing could go on for a while. ... Wouldn't that be fun if you actually went to the convention not knowing who the nominee was going to be?"
Mr. Romney, a former businessman, was in town yesterday to build the team he will have working for his campaign in Pittsburgh and the state.
"You have deep financial roots, not just steel roots, but financial roots here," he said. "The financial prowess of Pittsburgh meant that anybody who was in the investment business, as I was, came here to get supporters, to get investors, to get bank support.Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette Associated Press
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks with reporters at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh yesterday.
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Excerpts from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's press conference held Thursday in Pittsburgh at the Duquesne Club.
"I'm coming back to get deep support from the people of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania. ... That means both votes and dollars."
After a private lunch at the Duquesne Club, Mr. Romney fielded questions from reporters, during which he criticized the Democratic candidates who, during a debate Thursday night, called for pulling out of Iraq.
One argument that he said made sense to him was pushed by U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who advocated dividing Iraq into three separate regions dominated by Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.
"At least in the case of Sen. Biden, he puts a plan forward that has some prospect of success," Mr. Romney said. "But the challenge with that plan is it adds an additional risk, a risk which is not incurred if a central [Iraq] and a government remains. A central government can maintain its borders against Iran and quell al-Qaida. You have to have a central government for that to happen."
With that in mind, he said, he'd prefer to see how the current U.S. troop surge works before exploring other options in Iraq.
Mr. Romney, who touts himself as a Washington outsider, also said that the next president will need to have a good working relationship with China.
"China is not like the Soviet Union of old," he said. "The Soviet Union, Khrushchev in particular, wanted to bury us. China doesn't want to bury us. They want to see us succeed and thrive so we can buy more Chinese products. And they're our competitor economically. More power to them. We know how to compete. ...
"If I'm lucky enough to be president, making China a partner for stability in the world will be one of my highest priorities."
Before leaving, Mr. Romney was asked whether he had any advice for Pittsburgh as it prepares to dig a tunnel under the Allegheny River, connecting the Golden Triangle with the North Shore. Mr. Romney was governor of Massachusetts when the problem-plagued Big Dig was built under Boston Harbor.
"Run! Save yourselves!" he joked. "Build a bridge instead. Anything but a tunnel."
Dan Majors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456.