WEST CHESTER, Ohio – In a raucous, thunderous rally, Mitt Romney pilloried President Obama Friday night for not being more uplifting – either in his rhetoric or with the economy – and vowed to be a genuine agent of change.
As the campaign for president narrowed to a few critical hours, Romney and Republicans held a mini-convention of sorts in the conservative southwest of the pivotal state of Ohio. The event served as an pep rally lauding the nominee and launching dozens of high-profile surrogates across Ohio and into other swing states in the final days of campaigning.
As a procession of Republicans heralded Romney, the crowd thumped thunder sticks together, held up red letters to spell out “OHIO BELIEVES,” and repeatedly chanted “Four more days!”
“Can we afford four more years?” yelled House Speaker John Boehner here in his congressional district. “Hell no we can’t!”
Romney made clear how important Ohio is to his chance of winning the White House: “Your state is the one we’re counting on,” he said. “This is the one we have to win.”
The Republican luminaries ranged from former foes (Texas Governor Rick Perry) to former presidential nominees (Senator John McCain) to family (his wife, Ann, and all five sons) to his current running mate (Paul Ryan) They conveyed, in various ways, how important the election would be.
“This is a very serious election,” said Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. “This is our time!” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party. “It’s in your hands. Light the pathway to liberty and freedom.”
Ryan articulated it several times: “This is a big election. ... We have a really big choice ahead of us. ... This is big.”
“This time, Ohio’s going to be there for Mitt Romney for president of the United States, my friends,” said McCain, who four years ago lost the state to Obama.
“I know it’s cold out there. But we’re freezing for a reason aren’t we?” said Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and top Romney adviser. “Four. More. Days. To avoid four. More. Years.”
After several hours of short speeches – and music provided by Kid Rock -- Romney took the stage with his wife and said, almost sheepishly, “I know who you’re here to see, and she’s standing right next to me. My sweetheart.”
He launched into a version of his retooled stump speech meant to serve as a closing argument to voters.
“I have a question for you: Are you finally ready for real change?” Romney asked. “Real change is not something I just talk about. It’s something I’ve done.”
Romney also referenced comments President Obama made earlier in the day. When a crowd in Springfield, Ohio, began booing at the mention of Romney’s name Obama stopped, as he often does.
“No, no, no, Don’t boo. Vote,” Obama said. Then, he added, “Voting is the best revenge.”
“He asked his supporters to vote for revenge -- for revenge,” Romney said. “Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country.”
“I can’t wait for us to get started,” Romney said. “Our destiny is in the hands of the American people.”Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org