Mitt Romney thrills throngs of admirers in Apopkahttp://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-mitt-romney-in-orlando-20121006,0,2649155.story
The GOP candidate was much more focused than in his previous visit to Central Florida in August.
By Scott Powers, Orlando Sentinel
9:42 p.m. EDT, October 6, 2012
APOPKA — Under a threatening evening sky, an energized and confident Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke of the "greatness of the American spirit" Saturday night — and thousands of people spilling up a hillside returned his energy.
"I want you to know how confident I am in the future of this country," Romney told more than 10,000 people gathered in and around the Apopka Amphitheater. "I have seen the American spirit throughout my life. Throughout this campaign, I've met people who epitomize what it takes to make this country such a great nation."
Romney opened his rally celebrating his national debate victory Wednesday and belittling President Barack Obama as someone who "doesn't know how." Romney also outlined his five-point economic plan, offering some details of his goals for energy development, international trade, job training and education, budget cutting and championing small businesses.
But a combative and brash opening turned midway through his speech as Romney offered himself as someone of hope in and admiration for the American people.
The speech gave this crowd both sides of the persona he presented at the debate last week: the fighter, and a warmer person who could even compliment his opponent. For most of the second half of his speech, though, Romney recalled story after story of individuals he had known who demonstrated stubborn courage, from a deathbed-bound friend to a widow dealing with protesters at her war-veteran husband's funeral.
"I love our patriotism. I love the spirit of America. I love the hearts of our fellow citizens," he proclaimed.
It was a much more focused Romney than even the one who passed through Central Florida in August. On this trip, he is in the middle of a three-day bus tour that began Friday in St. Petersburg and ends Sunday after a rally in Port St. Lucie.
The citizens at Apopka Amphitheater were also both ready and willing to endure some difficult conditions, and lucky they weren't worse.
The Romney campaign said it took in RSVPs from 14,000 to 15,000 people to the event, though it did not know how many actually came. Apopka Chief Administrative Officer Richard Anderson said earlier the amphitheater had a capacity of about 10,000. The place was overflowing, and most of the last few thousand people, at least, who arrived had to fight through crawling traffic. Many people abandoned their cars along the roads' grassy shoulders and walked a mile or more to get to the park.
But these people were happy to be there together, and having watched Romney's debate performance last week, they were feeling like winners. They thundered a welcome when Romney and his wife, Ann, took stage, then cheered and roared repeatedly through his 23-minute speech.
They and Romney caught a major break when vicious evening thunderstorms rolled over menacingly but passed Apopka by, leaving just a few sprinkled drops.
Romney began by describing the debate as a clear expression of his and Obama's visions for America. But he also portrayed the debate as an opportunity for him to ask questions of Obama that others could or would not on topics ranging from why the health-care law was a bigger priority than jobs and why he was canceling drilling permits on federal lands.
Among new details, Romney promised to double the number of drilling permits approved on federal lands, to open Alaska to more oil exploration and to "build that pipeline from Canada if I have to do it myself."
"I enjoyed that debate a good deal, I gotta tell you," he said.
But while Romney characterized the Democratic president as someone who had failed to bring jobs back to America, he ignored the latest jobs report issued Friday, which showed a strong drop in the unemployment rate, to below 8 percent nationally. Democrats pounced on Romney when he made the same omission Friday night in St. Petersburg.
"There was one very telling omission from Mitt Romney's event in Florida tonight: today's jobs news," Obama For America spokeswoman Liz Smith stated in a release issued Friday night. "That's because he doesn't want to acknowledge how businesses have added 5.2 million jobs over the past two and a half years, and that the unemployment rate is now at its lowest level since January 2009. Nor does he want to tell the truth about how he'd bring back the same policies that got us into the mess in the first place. Americans want to move forward, not back."
But no one in Apopka Amphitheater seemed to feel that way Saturday.