Less than 24 hours after accepting the Republican party’s nomination for president, Mitt Romney came here to energize a crowd and to generate support in what will be a chief battleground state come November.
Roughly 4,000 people lined up to enter Cincinnati’s historic Union Terminal, a 1930s art deco train station-turned-museum, to see Romney. The wait was bittersweet news for the sweaty souls who braved the hour-long line, but reassuring to the candidate and the party. Cincinnati’s Hamilton County has historically been a stronghold for the GOP, but barely went to Obama in 2008. Republicans hope such visits will return them to the majority.
Another encouraging sign for Republicans might be the number of Ron Paul disciples that were interspersed in the Romney crowd. A Paulite from the Northern Kentucky Tea Party distributes a sheet with 1960s Communist doctrine as a motivator. I spot the question, “Who is John Galt?” on the frame of a license plate. One citizen wore a “Rand Paul, Y’all!” t-shirt. These Paulites blended in to the crowd and, at least locally today, seem to have assimilated.
Once inside, supporters were given a 30-minute campaign rally. Emceed by county chairman Alex Triantafilou, the rally put on local GOP candidates before Ann and Mitt Romney entered. A promising stable of rising Republican talent took the stage. Brad Wenstrup, likely the next congressman from Ohio’s Second Congressional District, and Senate candidate Josh Mandel warmed up the crowd. Senator Rob Portman and House speaker John Boehner introduced the Romneys. Portman, for his part, emphasized the Ryan budget, showing more and more how the campaign must embrace the Ryan plan and make this a debate about fiscal conservatism and a battle of ideas, not just personalities. Boehner presented Romney to a thunderous welcome. In a post-convention glow, Ann spoke a few words before leaving the stage to her husband. For those worried about America, she declared, “Help is on the way!”
Governor Romney, appropriate in the open of football season, says the U.S. needs a new coach. Reiterating some points unveiled at the convention, the campaign is simplifying Obama’s record to a before-after analysis, relying heavily on the “Are you better off…?” strategy. In an attempt to deflect the left’s inevitable distortion of the GOP’s position toward public educators, he reminds, much like Governor Christie did at the convention, that a Romney administration will put kids and teachers ahead, while putting labor unions behind. This line of campaigning is perhaps because Ohio has experienced a face-off between GOP budget hawks and the education associations. Toward the end of the speech, a supportive crowd chanted, “Mitt … Mitt” echoing in the train station’s rotunda, as a scratchy-voiced Romney stood humbled.
David Wolfford teaches government and politics at Mariemont High School, Cincinnati.