WAYNE, Pa. -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered dueling pitches Thursday in Pennsylvania's race for governor, appealing to voters in a state that could play a pivotal role in their potential 2016 presidential campaigns.
Clinton implored Pennsylvania Democrats to back Tom Wolf's gubernatorial campaign, warning against complacency despite his large lead in the polls against Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. "You never know what can happen in an election," she warned.
A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday found Wolf ahead of Corbett, 55 to 38 percent. Other public polls have reflected a similar gap.
Without mentioning the polls, Christie gave a nod to the size of the task of changing voters' minds and asked the GOP faithful to volunteer an hour a day doing just that.
"If you do that, you're going to be part of making history," Christie said.
The governor's race served as a backdrop for Clinton and Christie, who secured exposure in a state likely to be an important trophy in any 2016 party nomination or general election contest. Both have been filling their schedules with appearances around the country for gubernatorial and Senate candidates on the ballot this fall, building up chits with political figures across the country as they weigh a presidential bid.
Clinton is working on drumming up support among female voters while Christie has traveled to about three dozen states as head of the Republican Governors Association, raising millions for the group. Both have said they expect to make a decision on a potential White House bid around the beginning of 2015.
The former first lady made her first appearance for Wolf at an evening "Women for Wolf" rally in downtown Philadelphia's Constitution Center. In her speech, she boosted Wolf, as a made-in-America business success who would advocate for women and turn around an education system broken by funding cuts under Corbett.
She also tried to drum up a sense of urgency as the campaign enters its final four weeks, warning that voters shouldn't "believe the election is over."
"From my perspective, you can't count on things turning out the way you want them unless you go out and work for it," said Clinton, who was defeated by Barack Obama in a lengthy 2008 presidential primary campaign.
She sounded a populist message focused on working families and middle class economic security. "At a time when corporations seem to have all of the rights but none of the responsibilities of people, you deserve a governor who will put Pennsylvania families first," she said, according to The Hill newspaper.
She also nodded at the recent birth of her grandchild Charlotte, saying you should "not have to be the grandchild of a president to get a good education, get good healthcare, have good job opportunities, have a family that can protect, nurture, and prepare you for life."
An hour earlier, in an event hall at the suburban Valley Forge Military Academy, Christie attacked Wolf relentlessly as a liar and a man who knows only how to raise taxes. He also parried the Democrat's charges on education.
"When he says that Gov. Corbett hasn't funded education in this state, it's a lie. It's an absolute lie. When he says that Gov. Corbett doesn't care about the kids in this state, it's a lie," Christie said, according to Philadelphia CBS affiliate KYW.
The New Jersey governor cast Corbett as an underdog who has been in this spot before.
"Every race Tom Corbett's ever been in, he's been underestimated," Christie told the crowd. "Every race he's ever been in, people have thought, `No we're going to beat Corbett this time.' And believe me, his opponent thinks the same thing right now, and so now is the time for us to finish this off."
Corbett is Pennsylvania's former two-term attorney general from the Pittsburgh area. Wolf, a first-time candidate and former Peace Corps volunteer, spent much of the past three decades running his family's York-based building products distribution business.
On Thursday, both Clinton and Christie touted their ties to Pennsylvania.
Christie's wife grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, and much of her family still lives there. He also noted that he reads Philadelphia's newspapers and sees its television newscasts daily. It was Christie's fourth time campaigning or fundraising for Corbett since the beginning of June.
Clinton's appearance felt like a homecoming of sorts as local Democrats repeatedly hailed her ties and attention to the state. "She's one of us," Wolf said.
Clinton recalled her grandfather's roots in Scranton, her father's upbringing and her summer vacation trips as a girl along the Pennsylvania Turnpike to her family's lakeside getaways. The Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, is married to Marc Mezvinsky, whose mother, Marjorie, represented the Philadelphia suburbs in Congress for one term during the 1990s.
In some ways Clinton's star power even outshone the man it was intended to assist. According to the Hill, when Clinton stepped out onstage before Wolf was done introducing her, the audience began cheering, and Wolf shooed her back inside. "I'm the one running for governor," he said.