Romney at Wawa (Evan Vucci/AP)CORNWALL, Penn.—At the final stop on his bus tour here, Mitt Romney expressed confidence that he'll win Pennsylvania this November.
"I am going to win Pennsylvania," the Republican nominee told a crowd of several hundred people at the Cornwall Iron Furnace, a historic foundry that once was the source of cannonballs and other iron products.
But Romney nearly alienated some in his audience by dipping a toe into what has been a tense local debate among Pennsylvanians for years: Wawa or Sheetz?
The question of which Pennsylvania-based convenience store/sandwich chain is better has divided residents here for years. But that did not deter Romney, who had visited his first Wawa earlier in the day, from polling his audience on where they get their sandwiches.
"Where do you get your hoagies here? Do you get them at Wawas? Is that where you get them?" Romney asked.
"NOOO!" several members of the audience shouted in response.
Romney grinned. "No? You get them at Sheetz?" he said.
When the audience replied in the negative again, Romney seemed surprised. "No?" he said. "Where do you get them?"
As his audience threw out names of local delis in response, Romney paused and then proceeded to tell the audience about his trip to Wawa—acknowledging that it might be a tense topic for some in his audience.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I know it's a very big state divide."
But Romney said his visit there had been "instructive" because it personified the difference between innovation in the private sector and the ability of the government to do its job.
What inspired him: A computer at Wawa that allows customers to type in what they want on a sandwich, as opposed to ordering it through a human cashier. It was a technology, he said, that had been fostered by competition—competition he said the federal government lacks in delivering its services to Americans. He said the government's lack of competition and bureaucracy was hurting the United States in keeping jobs that are moving to other countries.
But more than anything, Romney seemed blown away by the Wawa computers, which he raved about.
"You press a little touchtone key pad… You touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier, and there's your sandwich," Romney said. "It's amazing!"