The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 23, 2013

Obama targets college message today to Pennsylvania

The Associated Press

— HARRISBURG — 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.

That division was underscored this week by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who said the affordability of higher education is an important issue, but there are many other discussion points affecting Pennsylvania residents.

"I’d like to see the President focus on the underwhelming job growth in today’s stagnant economy," Toomey said. "For instance, the lack of adequate job opportunities for recent graduates is still a major problem and will make it tough for them to pay for their education, no matter how much we subsidize student loans or try to control tuition costs.

“And when it comes to tackling job growth in Pennsylvania, the President has been either absent or has pursued the wrong policies," Toomey said.

"The massive deficits, tax increases, overspending, onerous red tape, and the President’s health care law are having a chilling effect on our state’s economy and hiring.  It’s time for Washington to start encouraging more economic opportunity and jobs for Pennsylvanians, not stifling them.  The President needs to take a step back from his big-government approach and seek common ground on sensible, pro-growth policies such as tax reform that will unleash the full potential of our economy.”