Salena Zito

SOUTH PARK, PA-John Opfar sat in the front row of a short riser at Consol Energy's South Park R&D facility just before Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took to a makeshift stage.

Opfar, 31, is a safety inspector at Bailey Mine, 40 miles south in Greene County, in what can only be described as an engineering marvel -- the country's largest underground coal mine. He said he likes what he hears from Romney, doesn't think Romney is at all like the descriptions in most press accounts, and cannot wait to vote for him: "He talks about what is best for the region and what is best for the country, growing our economy and creating jobs. "That's all I need to hear."

By all accounts, this Western Pennsylvania coal miner (who could be on the cover of a Ralph Lauren catalog despite his hardhat, safety glasses and beige jumpsuit) should be supporting Barack Obama.

In spite of his working-class roots, Opfar said "that is not happening."

Two hours later, Romney was across the state in the cavernous warehouse of Stephanie "Sam" Fleetman's Chester County trucking company. Kimberly Wise, Fleetman's executive vice president, said her boss started Mustang Expediting in her parent's attic with a single phone line and, over three decades, grew it to more than 40 employees.

Wise has worked at the trucking company for 24 years. She's voted for presidential candidates of both parties but, after Romney's visit, said she is "absolutely" voting for him.

Most of the media coverage of the Fleetman event centered on whether Romney will pick U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate after the Florida freshman joined him for a town-hall meeting in nearby Aston.

The real story, however, was the large number of women attending the event and the crowd's enthusiasm.

Romney spent time in Pennsylvania to plug holes in his demographic support: In the west, he pitched working-class Democrats and independents; in the east, he made an economic case to women, younger voters, Rockefeller Republicans and disenchanted Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008.

With Rubio, he reached out not only to Hispanics but to tea party supporters (by promoting a restoration of the American dream) and to students at Delaware County's many colleges (by saying that having half of new college graduates unemployed or underemployed is "unacceptable").

The Jacksonian-Jeffersonian voters who will swing this election in key battleground states are especially plentiful in the Keystone State and are most dissatisfied with the president's performance.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.