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Rendell says Pa. 'absolutely up for grabs'

President Obama won't win Pennsylvania by 11 points, as he did in 2008, and Democrats shouldn't assume the state is a safe bet even after five consecutive presidential victories here, former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell said Thursday.

Rendell, speaking before GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's visit to a shuttered factory in Allentown, said the 2012 presidential race "is very wide open." Picking a winner 18 months before the election, Rendell said, is "a fool's errand."

"This is a state that absolutely is up for grabs. Nobody should consider us a blue state. Certainly, in statewide politics, we're a red state," Rendell said.

In 2010, Republicans won the governor's mansion, a U.S. Senate seat and control of the General Assembly.

"It's going to be a tough fight, and if Republicans put together a ticket that reflects the views of independent voters, reflects the views of moderate Republican (and) conservative Democrat voters, if they do that, then it's going to be a tough race," Rendell said.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination, visited Philadelphia to raise money and stopped in Allentown. He criticized Obama's economic record against the backdrop of a factory that closed a month after Obama toured it in 2009 while touting the stimulus bill.

Obama also attended a fundraiser in Philadelphia, his second trip to Pennsylvania in a week. Rendell said organizers of the event hoped to raise $2.5 million.

Rendell defended the stimulus package as "a tremendous success here in Pennsylvania." He said without the $31 billion it pumped into the state, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate wouldn't be 1.7 percentage points lower than the national average and the lowest among large industrial states.

"If we zero out investment, if we stop investing in education and research and development and innovation, and in building out our infrastructure ... if we don't invest, we're going to become a second-rate country. It's a road map for disaster," Rendell said.

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