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Romney, Ryan rally the faithful before the final sprint to Election Day

WEST CHESTER, Ohio – Before setting off on a frenetic,  three-day sprint to Election Day, the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan joined their families and more than 40 of the GOP’s most prominent leaders for a massive rally Friday here in critical southwestern Ohio.

On a chilly night in this Cincinnati suburb, Romney rallied more than 18,000 ebullient supporters, easily making this the largest event of his campaign, as he, his vice presidential running mate and their band of surrogates prepared to fan out across the 11 swing states over the weekend.

They came together, from Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to flank Romney and Ryan in a show of force they hoped would illustrate momentum in Ohio, the central battleground in the razor-tight presidential contest.

“Your state is the one I’m counting on, by the way,” Romney said. “This is the one we have to win.”

Romney delivered a speech nearly identical to the one he gave Friday morning in Wisconsin, where he debuted his “closing argument” to voters. Calling this “America’s moment,” Romney said he would usher in change in Washington and reach across the aisle to solve problems with Democrats as well as Republicans.

“The question of this election comes down to this: Do you want more of the same or do you want real change?” Romney said.

One after another, a who’s who of Republican leaders took the stage to heap praise on Romney and to sharply criticize President Obama. Many of the speakers, including Giuliani, tore into the president over his handling of the killing of American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

But the headliners, Ryan and Romney, steered clear of any talk of Libya. Instead, they kept their remarks tightly focused on boosting their own qualifications and policy proposals and litigating the economic case against Obama.

“We can do better than this,” Ryan said. "We need leadership. We need Mitt Romney as our next president of the United States. This is a time for big ideas. This is a time for real reform, for a real recovery. This is who Mitt Romney is. Look at this man’s life: Achievement, leadership.”

In the closing days of the campaign, Romney has been rousing his crowds with a chant counting down to Election Day next Tuesday.

“At Obama rallies, they’re saying, ‘Four more years!’ ” Romney said. “We have a different cry, of course. What is it?”

The crowd shouted, “Four more days! Four more days!”

Romney nodded and said, “Exactly right!”

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.

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