Clinton stumps for Obama in Pa.

Former President Bill Clinton gestures as he speaks at a rally to get out the vote for President Obama in downtown Pittsburgh Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Former president Bill Clinton crisscrossed the state Monday in a last minute effort to shore up support for President Barack Obama just hours before Pennsylvanians headed to the polls.

“The America I have been fighting for is on the line,” Clinton told thousands gathered at the University of Pennsylvania. “Battles I thought we had won 20, 30, even 40 years ago, they keep re-fighting.”

Clinton strode calmly on stage just after 6 p.m. to thunderous applause.

A voluble Obama supporter and veteran campaigner, Clinton appeared in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania’s Palestra as part of a larger statewide tour on the day before the nation’s voters went to the polls to cast their ballots.

The former president, who is wildly popular among Democrats, was sent to the reliably Democratic centers of Pennsylvania to urge party loyalists to get out and vote.

In a 30-minute speech full of deadpan jabs at Mitt Romney’s camp, Clinton voiced his support for the president.

He poked at Romney on several topics from his “binders full of women” comment to his false ads about the auto industry.

“Now he’s going after the Italians,” said Clinton, quoting a Romney ad that incorrectly said Chrysler – now owned by Fiat – was sending jobs to China. “Before you know it he’ll be after the Irish and I’ll be toast.”

Clinton summed up Romney’s strategy as, “I need to blur it up.”

“You cannot allow a president of the United States who would deliberately say something that is false,” said Clinton.

He reiterated Obama’s achievements: Passage of the Affordable Care Act; withdraw from Iraq; improving job numbers; the Lily Leadbetter Act; the death of Osama Bin Laden, his immigration policy; the bailout of the auto industry; and pitching the president’s economic policies as the only way to keep the middle class from dying.

“Tomorrow, without regard to your race, gender, age, sexual orientation, your ability or disability — let’s lead Barack Obama to the White House tomorrow,” said Clinton. “We’re all in this together works better than we’re all alone.”

He added, on a personal note, that he supported Obama because, “He’s got a really good secretary of state.”

The former president was joined in Philadelphia by former Gov. Ed Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter, who urged Pennsylvania voters to give the state’s 20 electoral votes to Obama.

“There are no excuses tomorrow. Everybody knows what they have to do,” said Rendell, noting that Obama carried Pennsylvania in 2008 by 420,000 votes. In addition to his visit to Philadelphia, Clinton spoke in Pittsburgh, Blue Bell and Scranton.

At Penn, he was greeted by thousands of students who had waited hours to see him with deafening chants of “Four more years!” and “Obama!”

The president spent the final hours of his campaign in Wisconsin. Romney stumped in several states hitting swing-states Florida, Ohio and Virginia as the campaign wound to a close.

Polls have consistently shown Obama ahead in Pennsylvania. The most recent state poll showed that 49 percent of likely voters backed the president compared to 43 percent who said they supported Romney. Though the president still held a majority of support his lead has slipped in the final days of his slog for re-election.

In fact, the state was viewed to be so firmly behind Obama that the Romney campaign pulled its offices out of the state earlier this fall opting to focus on states that Romney might win.

Nearly everyone agrees that the key to victory will be voter turnout.

In addition to overcoming typical voter apathy, the Obama campaign had to contend with the added uncertainty of how the state’s delayed voter ID law would affect turnout. Though the law was delayed by court order, voter advocates have charged that the state’s education campaign was misleading. Some worried that the confusion caused by the law and the publicity surrounding the court battle to defeat it would deter voters.

 

To comment, contact staff writer Eric Mayes at 215-893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

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