Romney's Bus Tour Stops In Pennsylvania, Ohio

Over the weekend, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney continued his Every Town Counts bus tour, traveling through Pennsylvania and Ohio. He's visiting states that went for Obama in 2008 but gave Republicans big victories in the 2012 mid-term elections.

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While President Obama is in Mexico, his Republican presidential challenger will continue a bus tour of key battleground states. Over the weekend, Mitt Romney visited small towns in states including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio. And as NPR's Mara Liasson reports, Romney also faced questions on his immigration policy.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Romney took a brief detour from his bus trip to sit for an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday. He was asked five separate times for his response to President Obama's decision to stop deporting young illegal immigrants. But each time, Romney refused to say whether he would repeal that policy.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

MITT ROMNEY: I would work with Congress to put in place a long-term solution for the children of those that have come here illegally. I - and...

BOB SCHIEFFER: Would you...

ROMNEY: ...I've said, for instance, that those who serve in the military, I would give permanent residence to.

SCHIEFFER: Sure. But would you repeal this?

ROMNEY: Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will.

LIASSON: Because Romney had promised during the primaries to veto similar legislation, called the Dream Act, it sounded like he was now trying to find a way to reverse his position without actually saying so, since so many Republicans view the new approach as amnesty.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Romney - the bus is here.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

LIASSON: On the bus trip, there was no talk about immigration, just Romney's basic argument against President Obama.

ROMNEY: His last campaign, he had a slogan. It was about hope and change. Now he's hoping to change the subject.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: All right? He doesn't want you to be thinking about his record.

LIASSON: Romney's bus tour is traveling off the beaten path by design, hitting small towns where a presidential candidate and his entourage are a real novelty. Ann Gangwer was at Romney's first event in Weatherly, Pennsylvania in the Lehigh Valley at a foundry that makes industrial parts.

ANN GANGWER: When my husband first told me he was coming to Weatherly, I thought he was pulling my leg. It's amazing.

LIASSON: These rural areas also happen to be home to the weakest demographic link in President Obama's electoral coalition - white working-class voters. If Romney can win big majorities of these voters, he might be able to pry away one of the states the president absolutely has to win - Pennsylvania or Michigan or Wisconsin.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Do you have any juice?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Did you go over here?

LIASSON: In Brunswick, Ohio Greg Juchum under the pancake tent at a Romney breakfast. Juchum is a manager at the local power company. He says he's a committed Republican, but a lot of the people he works with are not.

GREG JUCHUM: When Obama won the presidency, a lot of the guys supported him. And for the first time in all of my years working for a union shop, all the union people are leaning towards Romney. Not all of them, but I'm going to say 75 percent of the hundreds of people that work for me, and that is major.

LIASSON: Polls show the president getting the support of only a third of non-college whites. And with factory output shrinking again and consumer confidence dropping to a six month low, that support could erode further giving Romney an even bigger opening.

A bus tour like this is supposed to be carefully choreographed but sometimes the campaign has to improvise. Romney was scheduled to meet voters Saturday at a Wawa convenience store in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. But after a crowd of Democratic protesters assembled there, the campaign bus changed plans and headed to a different Wawa nearby, where Romney was so impressed by the touch-screen ordering system that he worked it into his stump speech.

ROMNEY: It is touch that and, you know, the sandwich comes. You press this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier there. There's your sandwich. It's amazing. People in the private-sector have learned how to compete. It's time to bring some competition to the federal government and to get it smaller...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

LIASSON: Romney managed to sidestep the protesters in Quakertown, Pennsylvania but not in Troy, Ohio where they greeted him loudly.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Go home, Romney. Go home, Romney...

ROMNEY: She was the one that you're going to run again. I said, Ann, let's talk about...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Go home, Romney. Go home, Romney...

LIASSON: Romney cut his stump speech short to about five minutes, then he went across the street with House speaker John Boehner for some cheeseburgers, and the kind of forced humor that happens when a presidential candidate tries to do something normal, like order dinner in front of the press pool.

ROMNEY: Are we going to order some food? Is that the idea?

SENATOR JOHN BOEHNER: I'll take care of the ordering.

ROMNEY: Oh, all right.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: As long as I take care of the bill?

(LAUGHTER)

BOEHNER: I'll take care of the bill, too...

LIASSON: Today, it's on to another state Romney would like to wrest out of the Democratic column, Wisconsin. Republicans are bullish on the Badger State after Republican Governor Scott Walker beat a recall attempt earlier this month. Romney will be in Janesville with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a hero to conservatives and a possible vice presidential nominee.

Mara Liasson, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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