By Peter Hamby, CNN Political Reporter
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Mitt Romney promised Thursday to win Pennsylvania in November, even as he lowered expectations for a victory here in the Republican primary later this month.
“As you know I want to win Pennsylvania in November,” Romney said at a small rally held on the roof of a downtown Harrisburg office building. “I’m going to win Pennsylvania in November.”
As Romney put it, “the reason that’s going to happen, by the way, is that the people of Pennsylvania have taken a good look at conservative leadership. They’ve seen your senator, Pat Toomey, they’ve seen your governor, they’ve seen that conservative leaders are the people who will help grow the middle class.”
Toomey, a leading conservative voice in the Senate, has voiced support for Romney’s presidential bid, while Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has remained neutral in the race.
Pennsylvania hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988, but he expressed confidence that he could pick up the state’s 20 electoral votes this fall.
“The people of Pennsylvania, on Nov. 6, I believe will vote for me and give me the support I need to become the next president of the United States,” he said.
During a visit to a campaign phone bank before the speech, Romney called the state “critical” to his White House chances.
As for the more pressing matter – the April 24 Republican primary showdown against Rick Santorum – Romney was careful not to overstate his chances.
Clearly lowering expectations even though polls show him gaining on Santorum in the former senator’s home state Romney said “everybody expects someone to win their home state.”
“Newt Gingrich won his state, I won my state, I think people expect the senator to win his home state,” he said. “But I’ll pick up a lot of delegates, and we have several other states with contests the same day — I hope to win all of those, and if I can win the others and pick up some delegates here, it will give me an even stronger lead.”