TROY, Ohio — Mitt Romney posed for a roadside photo with a herd of grazing cows in rural Pennsylvania. He scooped ice cream for locals in the quaint town square of Milford, N.H. In Brunswick, Ohio, he served pancakes at aFather's Day breakfast.Continue reading.
Romney calls his five-day trek across remote regions of presidential battleground states a journey along "the backbone of America."
It is also the backbone of Romney's campaign: Republican strongholds of older white voters, many of them blue-collar.
For Romney, rural areas, small towns and outer-edge suburbs like Brunswick, on the outskirts of Cleveland, are crucial to offsetting President Obama's strength in urban centers.
Shifting demographics — the Democrats' coalition of younger and racially diverse voters is growing while the Republican base of white conservatives is shrinking — play to Obama's advantage. In several states, such as Nevada and Colorado, Obama's order Friday to stop deportation of many young illegal immigrants could add to his edge by lifting his standing among Latinos, putting more pressure on Romney to turn out his own voters.
But the stalled economy has given Romney a chance to overcome any erosion of his party's core of support. As he traveled across swing-state back roads over the weekend, Romney focused relentlessly on the nation's meager job growth, laying blame on Obama.
Romney also played up the struggles of small businesses that are vital to the far-flung communities on his route.
In Weatherly, Pa., on Saturday, he pounded Obama in remarks to supporters at the Weatherly Casting & Machine Co. factory. Obama, Romney told the crowd, may be "well spoken and articulate and eloquent" on the economy, but has failed to turn it around.
"If you want to know who can really get this economy going, go and talk to small businesses in your community," said Romney, who was introduced by the company president, Michael Leib. "Talk to people like Mike."
Romney's tour, which hits Wisconsin and Iowa on Monday and Michigan on Tuesday, is aimed not only at ensuring robust turnout of conservatives who shunned him in the Republican primaries, but also at small-town voters inspired by Obama to abandon the GOP in 2008. Many are disappointed in Obama and poised to vote Republican, just as they did in the 2010 midterm election.
"When you just look at where the votes come from, clearly a Republican candidate has to do well in the suburbs, exurbs and rural areas to carry states like Ohio," said Russ Schriefer, a senior Romney campaign advisor.
Also, "Scott Walker lends Mitt Romney a hand in Wisconsin."
And from Chris Stirewalt, at Fox News, "Romney’s Path to Presidency Runs Through Rust Belt."