CELINA, Ohio – Democrats may be working to secure four more years for President Obama, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a boisterous crowd in this small northwest Ohio town Sunday afternoon, but Republicans are focused on a different number: the nine days remaining until they get a shot at voting Obama out of office.
“This is an election about change,” Romney told supporters at the Celina Fieldhouse. “The president thinks this is a time to just keep on doing what we’ve been doing. ... Do you want more of the same or do you want change?”
"Change!” the crowd roared back.
The Romney campaign said there were about 2,000 people inside the venue, and 1,000 outside.
The event was Romney’s first of three joint rallies on Sunday with running mate Paul Ryan. The GOP ticket had originally been slated to campaign separately, with Ryan in the crucial Buckeye State and Romney headlining a trio of rallies in another battleground, Virginia.
But with Hurricane Sandy threatening to wreak havoc across the East Coast, the campaign cancelled those plans and instead paired up the GOP White House hopefuls in this most vital of swing states.
Currently, Romney and Ryan are expected to continue campaigning separately this week in Ohio, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire. Obama will hold a rally in Florida together will former president Bill Clinton on Monday afternoon, followed by an evening rally in Youngstown, Ohio, and an event Tuesday in Green Bay, Wis., while Vice President Biden campaigns on Monday and Tuesday in New Hampshire and Ohio.
The Obama campaign said Saturday that it was cancelling planned rallies in Virginia on Monday night and in Colorado on Tuesday in light of the storm.
Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden said after the Celina rally that the campaign’s plans could change depending on the severity of the storm, and that “our top priority is the safety and security” of those who look to be in harm’s way.
After Celina, Romney and Ryan head an hour northeast to the town of Findlay, and then onward to Marion, another hour away. All three towns are the seats of counties that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won handily in 2008 and which were even more solidly Republican four years earlier. If Republicans are to prevail on Election Day, they will have to maximize turnout in the GOP stronghold of northwest Ohio, where all three counties are located.
Speaking ahead of Romney, Ryan rallied the crowd with a cheer of “nine more days.”
Romney sought to make an appeal to independent voters by playing up his bipartisan credentials as Massachusetts governor. He also told the crowd that “unfortunately, the president’s campaign has been reduced to smaller and smaller things. ... Frankly, an attack is not a campaign or an agenda. Our campaign is growing because we have an agenda.”
Pointing to a young boy dressed in a Captain America outfit and hoisted up on an attendee’s shoulders, Romney told the crowd: “We’ve got Captain America over here. Captain Paul Ryan and I are joining your team real soon.”
Introducing the GOP ticket was Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who took aim at the “glossy new pamphlet” being distributed by the Obama campaign in the run-up to Election Day, telling the crowd that “when you actually look at it, it turns out it’s more of the same.”
“It’s time for a change,” Portman said. ”It’s time for somebody who understands that our country’s in trouble. That Washington is broken. And that we need to have policies that will actually get us back on track.”
Update, 5:25 p.m: Romney's Tuesday rally in Milford, N.H. has been cancelled, as has Vice President Biden's Monday event in Keene, N.H.