Allentown Morning Call
With President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat, Republicans ramped up Romney’s campaign in the Lehigh Valley as they opened a “victory office” Saturday morning at Bethlehem’s Westgate Mall.
The office, one of three opening Saturday in Pennsylvania, will serve as a hub for volunteers, an outlet for campaign signs, a meeting place for neighborhood canvassing and space for a phone bank for Romney and other GOP candidates.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 100 who attended the opening, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey called the Lehigh Valley crucial in determining whether Romney will carry Pennsylvania, considered a swing state.
He said Lehigh and Northampton are among six key counties that will determine who wins the Keystone State’s 20 electoral votes. The other four surround Philadelphia, he said.
“There are big parts of the state that are very predictable on how they’re going to go one way or the other,” he said. “These are the six counties that determine the outcome of elections in Pennsylvania and if we win here, this game is over.”
The Republicans also opened offices Saturday in Luzerne and Lancaster counties. There are now 20 such offices across the state.
Obama’s campaign, under Organizing for America, has 32 offices, according to its website.
The Obama campaign opened its first Pennsylvania field office, at 1031 W. Linden St. in Allentown, in January while Republicans were still duking it out in the primaries. Tens of thousands of volunteers worked out of dozens of storefront offices and homes to help Obama win Pennsylvania and the White House in 2008.
That effort was powered by volunteers and a sophisticated online campaign that registered and turned out hundreds of thousands of new voters.
Republicans called for such grassroots commitment Saturday in speeches by Toomey, Lehigh County Republican Chairman Wayne Woodman and Tom Smith, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.
“Lehigh County is a swing county in a swing state,” Woodman told volunteers. “We have every opportunity to win this state, and it’s going to be because of hard workers like you.”
The latest poll released last week by CBS News/The New York Times showed Obama and Romney nearly even. Romney led Obama 47 to 46, within the 3 percent margin of error.