Ahead Of Pa. Primary, Romney Focuses On The Fall

Mitt Romney has been campaigning in former Sen. Rick Santorum's home state, but says he's trying to win fans for the general election, not for the state's April 24 primary. "I think people expect the senator to win his home state. But I hope to pick up a lot of delegates," Romney said.

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Maybe this is a sign of confidence. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has stopped campaigning for a few days, spending a long Easter weekend with his family there at one of Romney's homes, his beach house in California.

Before taking the break, Romney made a move that underlined his advantage in the race for the Republican nomination: He campaigned across the state of Pennsylvania. Romney leads polls in that state's primary, even though it is the home state of his closest rival, Rick Santorum, which explains why Romney's campaign is thinking more of Pennsylvania as a swing state this fall.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Mitt Romney's Pennsylvania campaign headquarters occupy an old building in downtown Harrisburg. On the third floor, Larry Furr and other volunteers are making get-out-the-vote calls at a card table surrounded by handmade signs. They say Mitt Equals Jobs, Repeal Obamacare, and Ann for First Lady.

Pennsylvania's primary is a few weeks away, but Furr says that's not really what this is about.

LARRY FURR: I don't want to assume, but I think we'll be fine for the primaries. I think it's the general election that we need to really be fighting for and working hard for now.

SHAPIRO: That focus on November translates to his phone conversations with voters. Furr barely mentions Rick Santorum.

FURR: Normally, I wouldn't be making these calls, but this election, I feel, is too important. We have to defeat Barack Obama.

SHAPIRO: When Mitt Romney takes a seat next to the volunteers and a reporter shouts a question, the candidate makes the same point. It's not about the primary.

MITT ROMNEY: I think everybody expects someone to win their home state. Newt Gingrich won his state. I won my state. I think people expect the senator to win his home state. But I hope to pick up a lot of delegates.

SHAPIRO: Romney said he expects to win all the other states that vote on the 24th: Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island. He's spending all this time in Pennsylvania for other reasons.

ROMNEY: I do believe that I will win Pennsylvania in the fall, and winning Pennsylvania will give us the White House.

SHAPIRO: To win the election, Romney will have to broaden his appeal beyond the Republican primary base. A few minutes later, he was on the roof of the building, speaking to supporters about just that sort of big tent.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: This is not about one person, or about even one party. We're Republicans and Democrats in this campaign, but we're all connected with one destiny for America, and that destiny is greatness and exceptionalism.

SHAPIRO: Like Romney, Rick Santorum won't be campaigning this Easter weekend. Yesterday, he met with a key group of conservative activists to consider his campaign's future.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Scranton Pennsylvania.

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