WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Accelerating his late push to win the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney rallied more than 300 supporters under a cold drizzle and cutting wind here Friday morning by casting himself as a “citizen leader” and the election as “a real battle.”
“I need your help, you guys,” Romney exhorted the crowd. “This is a real battle – it’s a battle for the future course of America. I don’t want politicians running America anymore. I want to make sure that we have citizen leaders going to Washington, leading this country, fighting for the soul of this great country.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, kicking off a day of campaigning across the state on Romney’s behalf, joined the former Massachusetts governor on stage here.
“President Barack Obama came out to Iowa three years ago and he talked to you about hope and change,” Christie said. “Well, let me tell ya. After three years of Obama, we are hopeless and changeless and we need Mitt Romney to bring us back, to bring America back.”
The rally -- staged in the parking lot of a suburban supermarket, where the wind chill was about 26 degrees -- was the latest sign of Romney’s growing confidence about his chances in next Tuesday’s caucuses. After pursuing a cautious strategy here for much of the year, Romney now sits atop the polls with Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and has been drawing large crowds on his bus tour this week.
Romney is planning a more aggressive sprint in the closing days of the campaign. From here, Romney flies to New Hampshire, where he will host a spaghetti dinner with supporters Friday night and hold a campaign event Saturday morning, before returning to Iowa that afternoon to begin a series of rallies in the state’s bigger cities.
Christie warned Iowans that if they don’t support Romney in next Tuesday’s caucuses, “I will be back -- Jersey style, people.”
“When you look at that stage and you’ve watched these debates, I think you’ve got to come to the conclusion I’ve come to -- there is no person better qualified by his experience and his character to take on Barack Obama and to lead the United States of America than Governor Mitt Romney,” Christie said.
As he has all week on his bus tour across Iowa, Romney seemed confident and punchy. Taking the stage, he looked out at his bundled-up supporters and remarked that there were “over 1,000 people – 1,500 people here.” That was a hopeful guess, as the actual crowd was somewhere north of 300.
Still, Romney’s point was taken. He went on to contrast the scene in West Des Moines – it was so cold that Romney’s wife, Ann, was visibly shivering and moved closer to Christie for warmth -- with President Obama’s Christmas vacation in Hawaii.
“He’s in Hawaii right now,” Romney said. “We’re out in the cold and the rain and the wind because we care about America. He’s out there -- he just finished his 90th round of golf. We’ve got 25 million Americans that are out of work or stopped looking for work or are underemployed.”
“Do you want more of Barack Obama?” Romney asked.
“No,” the crowd shouted back.
“Do you want more of Obamacare?”
“Do you want promises of higher taxes?”
In his brief remarks, Romney kept his focus almost exclusively on Obama. He did not mention any of his Republican opponents, although he drew a subtle contrast with them by talking about his experience in the business world relative to their years as elected officials.
“I think to get America back on track you need to have someone who spent his life outside of Washington,” Romney said. “I did spend four years as a governor – I didn’t inhale, I promise. I’m still a business guy, a father, a husband, a person who cares very much about this country.”