Romney and Ryan rally in Ohio in 'final push'
By Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta
November 2, 2012, 7:57 p.m.
WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan kicked off the final weekend of campaigning Friday at a night rally featuring some of the Republican Party’s brightest stars where they told a crowd of more than 20,000 that President Obama had fallen short on his promises by continuing to “promote government” and “demote businesses.”
Flanked by two dozen surrogates, family members and onetime rivals (including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and 2008 presidential nominee Sen. John McCain), Romney said his team planned to fan out across the country this weekend for what the campaign has dubbed the Romney-Ryan Real Recovery Road Rally — or “R6 for short.”
“They’re going to make sure we win, and Ohio is the center place,” Romney said here in Hamilton County, a place that Obama became the first Democrat to win since 1964 when he topped McCain four years ago. With local supporters standing behind him in formation of the American and Ohio flags in red and blue T-shirts, Romney acknowledged that Ohio was key to his hopes of reaching 270 electoral votes.
“Your state is the one I’m counting on, by the way. This is the one we have to win,” the former Massachusetts governor said. The latest polls show Obama with a slight edge in the state, but within the margin of error.
Romney’s remarks Friday night tracked closely with closing arguments that he delivered earlier in the day in Wisconsin. Obama disappointed the American people, he said, by campaigning as a post-partisan president, but then joining in the divisive culture of Washington.
He argued that Obama’s healthcare plan had stifled job growth and that the president had failed to bring unemployment back down below 6%. (In the latest jobs report Friday, unemployment rose slightly to 7.9%). Romney also blamed Obama for rising gas prices and health costs.
But in a new attack, he also faulted the president for saying Friday in Springfield, Ohio, that “voting is the best revenge.”
“Did you see what President Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge – for revenge,” Romney said, emphasizing those words as some in the crowd booed. “Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country.
“I won’t just represent one party, I’ll represent one nation,” Romney said, as his surrogates stood on stage with him in new campaign-issued red and blue jackets. “Throughout this campaign, President Obama has tried to convince you that these last four years have been a success. He’s been floating a plan for the next four years. He wants to take all the things in his first term -- the stimulus, the borrowing, Obamacare, all the rest — and then try them all over again. But our big dreams will not be satisfied with a small agenda that’s already failed us."
Romney and Ryan spoke after a performance by Kid Rock, whose song “Born Free” has become the campaign's anthem, as well as roughly a dozen other speakers who urged the crowd to work door to door over the weekend. Top surrogates for the GOP ticket criticized the president on two flanks – the economy and the handling of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, with a few implying that Obama was to blame for the deaths of four Americans there.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the compound would have been better protected if McCain had been elected in 2008.
“Maybe something like what happened in Libya could have been avoided. Maybe if we had a president who was paying attention we wouldn’t be going through all this investigation about what’s being covered up about Libya,” he said.
“This is the heartland of America," Giuliani said. "You know what happened in Libya is the result of at least incompetence. You think if we had elected John McCain president of the United States those people wouldn’t have had the full resources of the United States of America?
“I believe some Americans who might not have had to die may have died because we had incompetence in the White House,” he said.
McCain also fiercely criticized Obama’s handling of the terrorist attack in Libya. He charged that four Americans had lost their lives “when they didn’t have to.”
Ryan, who appeared with his wife, Janna, and his children, lauded Romney’s background before turning to his own, noting he attended an Ohio college nearby.
“Look, I spent four great years of my life right in Butler County, off route 27 at Miami of Ohio,” Ryan said, as the crowd roared. “This is a good place. We know who we are. We know what we believe in. We know what made this country great.
“We have a really big choice ahead of us. We are not just picking a president for four more years. We are choosing for at least a generation what kind of people we’re going to be and what kind of country we’re going to give to our kids and our grandkids,” he said. “In Ohio, you know it, you’re the linchpin. You’re the battleground of the battlegrounds. Ohio, are you going to help us win this thing?”
“Yes!” the crowd roared in response.
Late Friday night Romney planned to fly to New Hampshire, where he is to hold an early morning rally in Portsmouth before heading across the country for campaign stops in Iowa and Colorado, before returning to Iowa late Saturday night.