Expect to hear a lot about blue-collar jobs, tax breaks for the rich, and women and health care when President Obama's re-election campaign in swing-state Pennsylvania kicks off in earnest later this year.
The Democrat's campaign has been in the state for months already -- it expects to open its 20th office statewide by next week -- and is using the de facto kickoff of the GOP presidential primary season to both stir up his base and preview attacks on Republican front-runner Mitt Romney. The president began the attacks in a speech Tuesday, linking Mr. Romney to a GOP budget plan he called "thinly veiled social Darwinism."
On Wednesday two top Obama campaign aides gave the localized pitch, saying Mr. Romney's past at Bain Capital and his opposition to the $60 billion auto industry bailout put him out of touch with blue-collar Pennsylvania voters. One of the pressure points looks to be Bain's takeover of Kansas City, Mo., steel maker GS Industries, which paid dividends to investors before going bankrupt in 2001, costing more than 700 steelworkers their jobs.
"It's been quite clear as a corporate buyout specialist that Romney is comfortable with profiting from companies he bankrupted and outsourcing jobs," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
Targeting women voters, the Obama campaign also promises to press Mr. Romney on his support of a failed Senate amendment allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception or other medical coverage contrary to their moral beliefs. (Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey, who will top the state's ticket with Mr. Obama, also supported the so-called Blunt amendment, however.)
Pennsylvania Democrats have maintained their nearly 1 million voter registration advantage over Republicans, according to the latest Department of State figures.
Still, the GOP won the governor's mansion, a U.S. Senate seat and control of the state House in the 2010 midterm year, and Mr. Obama's approval ratings have been relatively low since his 10-point win over Republican John McCain in 2008.
"The Obama legacy is one of record-breaking unemployment and an economy in which middle-class Americans are struggling like never before. That is a fact President Obama can't hide from the American people, and that is why he will be a one-term president," said Amanda Henneberg, a Romney campaign spokeswoman.
The Obama campaign will also have to contend with a new voter identification bill state Republicans approved this year. Democrats fear the requirements that voters show identification at the polls will dampen the elderly, poor and disabled turnout that reliably goes their way.
The Obama team's Pennsylvania director, Bill Hyers, said the campaign is working to synthesize education about the new poll requirements into its regular get-out-the-vote efforts. That worry aside, the campaign aides seemed giddy at the incumbent president's advantages in the state, whether it be in its months of unfettered grassroots preparations or the fact that Mr. Romney faces three weeks of further attacks from GOP opponent Rick Santorum before the April 24 primary balloting.
Republicans think "they can win this campaign with their super-PAC allies carpet-bombing from the air, without doing anything on the ground," Mr. LaBolt said.
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