Obama and Romney to go head-to-head in Pennsylvania Thursday

President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) are set to do battle Thursday when both visit southeast Pennsylvania.

Romney will hold a press conference Thursday afternoon at a factory in Allentown, Pa., that was supposed to be a beneficiary of the president's stimulus, while Obama, an hour later, visits two Democratic National Committee fundraisers.

ADVERTISEMENT
The events will be the most direct showdown between Obama and his leading Republican challenger, possibly offering a preview of next fall's election, should Romney win the 2012 GOP nomination.

"The 2012 election is going to be a referendum on the president's failure to turn around the economy," Romney told the Philadelphia Inquirer in an interview previewing the showdown. "He's grown detached and isolated from what people are feeling and experiencing."

Romney's assiduously focused his campaign on jobs and the economy, casting himself as the Republican candidate best-suited to address those issues. He'll visit the same plant, Allentown Metal Works, that Obama visited in December of 2009 to tout his $787 billion stimulus. Obama talked up the plant in a subsequent Saturday radio address, too, but the 100-year-old plant eventually closed down this January after the stimulus dollars it had been promised didn't come through.

The former Massachusetts governor is sure to take some shots at the president when he gives a press conference at the shuttered plant just after 4 p.m.

ADVERTISEMENT
Pennsylvania's gone for Democrats in recent presidential election cycles, and Obama would beat Romney, 47-40 percent, according to a mid-June Quinnipiac poll. But another Susquehanna Polling survey the week before suggested that Obama was plenty vulnerable in the Keystone State, with 50 percent of the state's voters saying it was time to give another candidate a shot.

Obama will have the perfect opportunity to take a shot at the nearby Romney at two DNC events. He's generally avoided singling out Republican foes by name at fundraisers, but whether the president holds off on firing back at Romney could prove to be one of Thursday's more entertaining plotlines.