Last night my wife noticed that Romney would be attending a rally less than an hour away in Marion, Ohio. She had been wanting to go to one of these and most have been during work hours so we went.
We think that Romney had been scheduled for an event in Virginia that was cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy. That meant that a Ryan event became a Romney/Ryan event. Marion was a bit overwhelmed.
The rally was held at the Marion Fairgrounds. The building was large enough (barely) but the streets and parking were not.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Traffic was stopped a mile from the fairgrounds and all of the cross-streets were also stopped. It took us a half-hour to go a half-block. At that point I took an alley and parked on a side-street.
Team Obama's ground game was off. We expected some sort of counter-protest but all we saw were two young women carrying a single Obama yard sign. They looked spontaneous.
Once we got into the fairgrounds we got into line for the metal detectors. After around fifteen minutes this was what was in front of us.
And here is what was behind us.
They had two metal detectors each at two doors For some reason, very few people were going through the side door so we got in a little earlier than some people.
The campaign staff was filling in sections. It was still an hour before things started so they were filling in behind the speaker's platform first. We were fairly close to the stage but behind and to the side. By the time things started, all of the sections plus most of the floorspace were full. I tried to do some estimates but there were too many people for me. All I can say for certain is that there were several thousand.
They handed out some long vinyl inflatable Romney things to the bleacher behind the speaker's platform. Some of them were blue, some were white. I'm not quite sure what the purpose was. Maybe they were Romney's answer to "lady parts". You can see some being waved here.
Right on schedule the event started with the Oak Ridge Boys. They sang several songs to pre-recorded tracks then left, promising to perform "Elvira" in their second set.
Then someone I don't know introduced the entire local ticket. Senate candidate, Josh Mandel and others got to speak.
The audience knew that something was up. The Secret Service seemed more animated. Someone finally came through distributing Romney signs to our section.
Sure enough, the Oak Ridge Boys did their second set. They started with "Elvira" then did "Amazing Grace".
While this was going on, Romney and company sneaked in. The Oak Ridge Boys left the stage and there were the candidates. Somehow the idea of the candidate coming in without a big fanfare seems typical for Romney and something that Obama would never have done.
Ryan's wife and Ron Portman were also on the stage.
Ryan introduced Romney, starting out with the quote from Obama in 2008 about what you do when you don't have a record to run on.
Romney started speaking at 7:20 and spoke for around a half hour. I was pleased with this. I saw George H. W. Bush in 1988 and he only spoke for five or ten minutes.
Romney's speech was divided into three parts. The first was a contrast between himself and Obama. The second was about his plans including his five point plan. The final part was about America itself. Romney began this part with a personal story about his days as a scoutmaster. His troop had a new flag and wanted to get it sent into space. They talked NASA into it and it was on the Challenger when it exploded. Amazingly, the flag survived intact and was presented to the scout troop. Romney used the experience of touching the flags and tying that to the Americans who have lost their lives for scientific exploration. From there he went into the military.
Romney did not hit Obama on any specific issues except the economy. This was material he has used before - the unemployment rate, the under employment rate, the rise in prices and the corresponding loss in family income. With a small but growing lead and only nine days to the election, this was not the time to be trying new attacks. This was a front-runner's campaign.
All told, the rally lasted around an hour and a half.
At dinner, the manager of a local restaurant told us that a lost of out-of-town people had been through. He assumed that most were there for the rally. He said that several were from Michigan.
While the crowd was fired-up, I had the feeling that the biggest draw was being able to see the next president of the United States in person.
Here is a picture of Romney on his way out. The top of his head is cut off but it gives an idea of how close we were.