PHILADELPHIA — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned Friday on an uphill battle to win Pennsylvania, acknowledging it would be a "shock" if he were able to overcome President Barack Obama's lead in the state.
Facing a narrowing path to electoral victory, Romney courted donors at Philadelphia's exclusive Union League Club before a midday rally in suburban Wayne. The state has not supported a Republican presidential candidate in nearly a quarter-century and his campaign is not running any television ads in Pennsylvania.
"We really would shock people if early in the evening of Nov. 6 it looked like Pennsylvania was going to come our way and actually did come our way. That can happen," Romney told about 200 donors who paid as much as $50,000 to attend his morning fundraiser.
He changed to a more optimistic tune later in a speech before a larger crowd at Valley Forge Military Academy and College.
"The Obama campaign thinks Pennsylvania is in their pocket, they don't need to worry about it," Romney said to shouted objections from the crowd. "You're right and they're wrong — we're going to win Pennsylvania. We're going to take the White House."
Aides privately concede Obama has the advantage in Pennsylvania and suggested Romney's visit — his first to the state in more than two months — was largely designed to raise the money needed to narrow Obama's edge in more competitive states. The campaign would not say how much it raised at the event, but Romney brought in $5 million at a Washington gathering Thursday and is expected to raise another $7 million at a Boston fundraiser later Friday.
"My priority is job creation and growing incomes," he told the donors in Philadelphia. "My priority is not trying to punish people who have been successful."
Obama also will focus on raising cash Friday at three fundraising events in Washington.
He was set to deliver remarks at a finance event at the Capital Hilton, where tickets start at $250 but go as high as $10,000 per couple. Obama planned to attend a smaller fundraiser at a private residence before returning to the Capitol Hilton for a third event.
Both candidates worked statesmanship into their politicking Friday with separate telephone calls to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Romney criticized Obama for not meeting with Netanyahu this week during his visit to the United Nations, where the prime minister warned the world only has until next summer to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. Aides to both candidates did not mention that dire declaration in their reports of the calls.
Romney told the crowd at Valley Forge that he didn't know how any student at the school could support Obama. He said the president was cutting military spending while job opportunities for college graduates have decreased.
"On both fronts this president's policies have not worked for this country's young people," Romney said.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith objected to Romney's criticism, since Republicans in Congress, including Romney running mate Paul Ryan, overwhelmingly backed defense spending reductions when they voted for deficit-cutting legislation last year.
"In next week's debate, facts will matter, and Mitt Romney simply failed to meet the bar of honesty today," Smith said in a statement.
Obama and Romney are scheduled to face off Wednesday in Denver for the first of three debates, which may represent the challenger's best remaining opportunity to change the trajectory of his campaign. Romney has struggled through a series of perceived missteps in recent weeks amid signs that confidence in the nation's economy is on the rise.
Obama met with advisers Friday at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington to prepare for the debates before heading Sunday to Nevada to hold practice sessions. His campaign released a political memo on Friday saying it expects Romney "to be a prepared, disciplined and aggressive debater."
However, it said that while the president would be laying out his vision for the coming years, Romney has "signaled that he will come to indict the president for the fact that the economy has not fully recovered from the collapse of 2008."
The Obama memo and an accompanying Web video also aim to debunk claims by Romney that the president has mischaracterized the Republican's positions on the auto industry bailout, abortion and raising taxes on wage earners to cover tax cuts for multimillionaires.
With economic concerns paramount for voters, Obama and Romney continue to jab over who would best protect American manufacturing workers against unfair trade and currency practices by China. In an interview with the Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland, Obama said the United States must push hard but "not go out of our way to embarrass" China to get results.20 comments on this story
"There's a strong nationalist sentiment inside of China, and they've got their own economic pressures," Obama told the newspaper during a campaign visit this week. "So we're not interested in triggering an all-out trade war that would damage both economies. What we're interested in is making sure they're treating our workers fairly, and that's what we've delivered on."
Obama on Friday used his presidential authority to block a Chinese company from owning four wind farm projects near a Navy base in Oregon, citing national security risks. It was the first time in 22 years that a U.S. president blocked such a foreign business deal.
Obama campaign video: http://tinyurl.com/cllgnau
Pickler reported from Washington. AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.