WAYNE, Pa. -- Mitt Romney returned to Pennsylvania today for the first time since July, holding a high-dollar fundraiser in Downtown Philadelphia and a rally here at the Valley Forge Military Academy; predicting at both he could mount an improbable victory in this politically divided state.
“You know, I’ve got a little secret here," Romney told a rally crowd of a few hundred supporters. "That is that the Obama campaign thinks Pennsylvania is in their pocket -- they don’t need to worry about it. And you’re right, and they’re wrong.
"We’re going to win Pennsylvania. We are going to take the White House."
At the fundraiser earlier this morning in Philadelphia, Romney was more circumspect about his chances, telling donors it would "really shock people" if, on Nov. 6th, Pennsylvania seemed to be going his way. He first predicted "it could happen" before closing with an outright prediction: "I'm going to win Pennsylvania."
Romney's campaign has not run any television advertisements in the Keystone state, and the candidate himself has not appeared here since mid-summer. No Republican has carried Pennsylvania since George H. W. Bush in 1988.
Polls here regularly show the Republican nominee trailing President Obama by anywhere from eight to 10 points or more, but aides to the former Massachusetts governor mirrored the candidate's optimism. They pointed out that Pennsylvania lacks a robust early voting program, and argued that if Romney can keep the state competitive, he might be able to close the gap here in October.
This comes as polls in other hotly contested battlegrounds have shown Mitt Romney behind.
Romney hammered his economic message here, along with striking patriotic themes about the greatness of America, and promising a smaller government -- all meant to appeal the mostly white, middle- and working-class voters here in the state's suburbs and exurbs that could be open to a Republican message.
Still, this is a county that has been reliably Democratic in past presidential elections. President Obama won Delaware County 60-39 percent over John McCain. John Kerry, who took Pennsylvania by just 2.5 points, won this county 57-42 percent.
“The president wants to go down the same path he’s been on for the last four years," Romney said. "He wants to keep the status quo. I don’t think we can afford four more years like the last four years. The president calls his campaign slogan ‘Forward.’ I call it ‘Forewarned,’ alright -- we know where it heads, we don’t want to go there," Romney said. He continued: "The president wants to grow government. I think government should be smaller, not bigger. I don’t want it to take more from us."
Today's rally is expected to be Romney's final public event before arriving in Colorado Monday in advance of the first presidential debate Wednesday.