Salena Zito

HARRISBURG — Republican front-runner Mitt Romney considers Pennsylvania a key swing state for the fall presidential election and is certain he will win here, he told the Tribune-Review in an exclusive interview today.

"Voters in this state and across the country are looking for a conservative leader to guide and serve the American people so that we can reignite the economy, put the country back on track and to balance the budget," he said.

Romney said he is certain "the people of Pennsylvania will elect me president because they see the need for conservative, principled leadership."

In 2010 state elections, he noted, Pennsylvania voters of chose conservative leaders Gov. Tom Corbett and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey because people "weren't thinking about party, they were thinking about leadership."

Romney spoke after making telephone calls to Pennsylvania Republicans urging them to vote in the April 24 primary. He plans to campaign in the central and eastern parts of the state today, as Rick Santorum takes a break for the Easter holiday at his home in Virginia.

Santorum's campaign said he would resume campaigning next week and planned fundraising events for Monday.

A Public Policy Polling survey released today shows Romney now leading Santorum in his former home state, 42 percent to 37 percent. The poll found 9 percent of voters prefer Ron Paul and 6 percent, Newt Gingrich.

Among the stops Romney plans is a visit to natural gas production company Mountain Energy Services in Tunkhannock.

"I have great respect for the work ethic, patriotism, the creativity and the determination of the people of this state," Romney told the Trib. "I also understand the difficult times they have been through and that they want change, not just flowing rhetoric."

He said he is confident voters will choose him over President Obama this fall because the president "has not delivered on his promises; his presidency has failed."

Obama has made the America "a more government-centered society," he said.

"... The president doesn't understand the people of Pennsylvania because he has not ... gotten to know them. If he did, he would understand the determination to succeed here," Romney said. "... Pennsylvanians have weathered turbulent economic times and the state has emerged as one of the leading industrial and technological states in the country."


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.