HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — President Barack Obama will visit Pennsylvania for the first time in more than a year as he brings his plan for college affordability to Scranton, a city that's friendly to the Democrat.
The Friday evening visit to Lackawanna College is also Obama's first to Pennsylvania since he won the state on his way to a second term.
Obama will appear with two Scranton natives, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Vice President Joe Biden, as he delivers his message to one of the nation's biggest college states. If Obama is trying to apply pressure to Republicans ahead of the September debate with Congress over the budget, he's come to a good place: Pennsylvania's congressional delegation is heavily Republican, 14-6, in a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The White House bills the visit as part of Obama's efforts to boost the middle class, and the latest in a series of speeches he's delivering around the country.
He is arriving at a time when one recent poll showed Pennsylvanians are closely divided over his job performance.
During a bus-tour stop in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, Obama called higher education an "economic imperative" and touted his plan to tie federal financial aid to schools' affordability and performance.
For their part, Pennsylvania Republicans issued various fundraising appeals around Obama's visit and are trying to pick away at his message by focusing on what they call his various scandals and failures.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a frequent critic of Obama's, has pressed Pennsylvania's 18 state-supported universities to minimize their tuition increases and reorganize diploma programs around growing industries. However, his campaign is using the visit to try to persuade potential contributors that he is a better steward of the economy than Obama and the more appropriate champion of the middle class.
Corbett, a conservative who keeps a low profile and is beset by lagging public approval ratings ahead of his re-election bid next year, is viewed by Democrats as vulnerable.
The event with Obama is free and open to the public, although a limited number of tickets were to be available. A 2008 U.S. Census report, the latest available, showed Pennsylvania to be fourth among states in degree-granting institutions with 257 and sixth in enrollment with 740,000.