SCRANTON ‚?? Hoping to convince local undecided voters to support President Barack Obama in today‚??s election, former President Bill Clinton electrified a packed house at Scranton High School with an 11th-hour visit and stump speech Monday night.
Clinton told the crowd packing the gymnasium that he worked hard for the Obama campaign this election season and would go anywhere staffers asked, but that he was ‚??going to spend the last day in Pennsylvania, ending in Scranton,‚?Ě bringing wild cheers and applause from the audience.
Clinton noted that his wife, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, buried her father in Scranton, and the family attended christenings for their nephews there.
‚??It‚??s been an interesting part of our lives coming back to Scranton, where the Rodham family came from, and I‚??m glad to be here to end this campaign,‚?Ě Clinton said. ‚??Don‚??t you lose heart, we‚??re going to have a great victory tomorrow.‚?Ě
Clinton spent the rest of his nearly 40-minute speech touting the accomplishments of the Obama administration over the last four years, making many of the same points he did in his nomination speech at the Democratic National Convention in September.
He criticized Republican nominee Mitt Romney in several areas, harping on a lack of details from the former Massachusetts governor on how he would accomplish debt reduction and job creation.
Clinton also brought up more recent campaign issues, such as Romney‚??s suggestions that Chrysler and Jeep planned to move jobs to China after the Obama administration bailed out the auto industry, claims which those companies have vehemently denied.
Earlier in the evening, Obama campaign regional field director Jane Slusser reminded the crowd that Obama stood in the high school one year ago with a message: ‚??Just like you don‚??t quit, I don‚??t quit,‚?Ě she said Obama told the crowd back then, adding there was more work to do now.
‚??There is no way to win this election without winning Pennsylvania. And there is no way to win Pennsylvania without winning big right here in Scranton,‚?Ě Slusser said.
Scranton was Clinton‚??s last stop on Monday. He spent time at rallies in Philadelphia, Blue Bell and Pittsburgh before taking the stage just after 9 p.m. in Lackawanna County.
David Sosar, a political science professor at King‚??s College, believes that while Pennsylvania is still ‚??leaning Democrat, I think it‚??s still in play‚?Ě as a swing state in this election.
Internal polls by both parties led them to send heavy-hitting surrogates to stump here on Monday, Sosar said, with Clinton in Scranton and former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani and other big names in the Republican Party in Wilkes-Barre.
‚??Rudy Giuliani has a wife that‚??s from Hazleton, so he‚??s almost like a hometown boy. And with Bill Clinton and Hillary‚??s ties to this area, they can always get a crowd out,‚?Ě Sosar said. ‚??He‚??s a great speaker and so is Giuliani, but I don‚??t know if they‚??re turning many votes now. I think most people have already made up their minds.‚?Ě
Ten-year-old Timmy Walsh, who was first in line for Clinton the rally, waiting outside Scranton High School with his mom, Sheila McDonough, since 2:13 Monday afternoon, shared Sosar‚??s view on turning votes.
‚??Not really,‚?Ě the Wyoming Seminary student said when asked if Clinton‚??s visit would make a difference in the election. ‚??It‚??s not one of the candidates. If it was one of the candidates, it might,‚?Ě Walsh said.
His mom was more optimistic.
‚??I think it possible could because of his family ties. Scranton loves Clinton,‚?Ě McDonough said, adding that her son ‚??doesn‚??t think Romney has a chance anyway, especially in Pennsylvania because it‚??s so Democratic.‚?Ě
Tina Jezuit, 36, of Jessup, said she attended Monday‚??s rally ‚??because President Clinton is here and he was an amazing leader, and I think everyone needs to get out and vote.
Jezuit believes Clinton‚??s stump will help Obama because Clinton is ‚??very well-respected. So if people come to their senses and listen to what he says, it should make a difference.‚?Ě
Alyssa Klinitski, 21, of Hanover Township, said Monday was her first time listening to a political figure in person.
‚??When he was in office, he was an amazing president. And the way he speaks, I really wanted to come out and listen to him. I believe in everything that he talked about.
‚??I think most people at this point know who they‚??re going to vote for. But if there are those few voters who are still undecided, I think the fact that the Obama campaign is paying attention to Scranton, ‚?Ľ it will make a difference, in my opinion, to undecided voters,‚?Ě said Klinitski, a senior at Wilkes University.
A handful of protesters outside the rally felt differently.
Mary Burke, 60, of Scranton, and her husband, Dennis, 64, held signs raising questions about the Sept. 11 attack of the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. They both said it was ‚??time for a change.‚?Ě
After Clinton‚??s speech, Kyle Verrill, 26, of Scranton, said he supported Obama in 2008 and ‚??wanted to hear the message again before the election because you just hear the negatives‚?Ě during the campaign.
‚??It‚??s nice to hear what Obama is going to do and not what Obama hasn‚??t done,‚?Ě he said.
Allison Gentile, 25, of Scranton, said she thought Clinton‚??s speech was effective.
‚??We had a lady standing next to us who said she was undecided. By the time it was over, she was cheering along with everybody else. The energy is so infectious,‚?Ě Gentile said.
Diane Piasecki, 61, of Archbald, said Clinton ‚??drove home‚?Ě Obama‚??s message ‚??at a level that you could understand what he was saying.‚?Ě
Her husband, Andrew, also 61, said he hoped undecided voters in the audience ‚??see where the country is headed now and where it will be headed if Mitt Romney is elected.‚?Ě