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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ryan Campaigns in Coal Country

Representative Paul D. Ryan signs an autograph after a campaign event at Pittsburgh International Airport.Eric Thayer for The New York TimesRepresentative Paul D. Ryan signs an autograph after a campaign event.

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. â€" Black and gold threatened to outshine the campaign staples of red, white and blue during Representative Paul D. Ryan's swing through coal country on Saturday, whether it was the yellow leaves burning through the mountain fog or the “Terrible Towels” that his supporters twirled above their heads. Normally a sign of support for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the towels distributed in an airport hangar just outside the city were instead emblazoned with the team of Romney-Ryan.

There were not enoug h towels for all of the more than 800 people who turned out to see Mr. Ryan on Saturday morning, so many instead held signs that said “Pennsylvania Believes” (in the usual color scheme). Mr. Ryan's appearance in Pennsylvania â€" added late into an existing trip to eastern Ohio â€" could be a sign that his strategists believe the campaign has stronger prospects there than once thought.

“Pennsylvania is going to send Mitt Romney to the White House,” the Republican nominee told the crowd shortly after entering amid chants of “Here we go, Ryan, here we go!”

Mr. Romney's standing does appear to be creeping up, as polls show the gap between him and President Obama narrowing.

“He's here because they understand that Pennsylvania's in play,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey as he introduced Mr. Ryan.

A Republican elected in 2010, Mr. Toomey predicted that the Republican ticket would win Pennsylvania.

“We hav e a victory in reach that is not yet in hand,” Mr. Toomey said. He urged the crowd to reach out to the “hundreds of thousands, if not more, Democrats and independents who share our values” and might be open to persuasion.

Conveniently for Dan Shepherd, his wife, Lynn, is one of those independent voters. She voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, and John McCain in the general election that year. This time, she went with Rick Santorum â€" a former Pennsylvania senator, in the G.O.P. primary, and especially after the debates, she's leaning strongly toward the Romney-Ryan ticket, but she wanted to hear Mr. Ryan talk about their economic plan.

“I want to make sure it's not just smoke and mirrors,” said Ms. Shepherd, whose son in college worries about getting a job after graduation and daughter in high school wonders about paying for college.

The front page of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette illustrated the complicated choice for Pennsylvania voters. Pennsylvania's September jobless rate “eclipses national average,” declared one headline. (Democrats blamed the Republican governor for the 8.6 percent figure, while Mr. Ryan told the crowd that the president's energy policy was costing thousands of jobs.) Another story, reprinted from The Los Angeles Times, said, “No evidence of al-Quaida role in Libya attack” â€" adding fuel to the the debate over whether the White House was straightforward about what was known about the attack on Sept. 11 in Benghazi.

And at the bottom of the front page was an ad for the event that Mr. Ryan would attend next, 75 miles away through the Ohio Valley. In Belmont, Ohio, Mr. Ryan urged nearly a thousand rain-soaked supporters to vote early in a state whose dominant political color is indisputably purple.