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At Romney stop, all that glitters is gold

ELKO, Nev. – Mitt Romney brought his jobs and economy-focused message to a part of the country Friday that is focused on a figure separate from Friday's unemployment and jobs data.

That other number is 1,739.19 -- the price of an ounce of gold.

The town of Elko is at the very heart of Nevada's gold country, encased in a gilded bubble, where rising gold prices have helped keep unemployment low and the city's economy booming, creating a class of overworked, local entrepreneurs who dotted the audience here Friday.

“I’ve had them call me at two o’clock in the morning, to rush all the way to Wyoming -- which is 900 miles,” said Robert Brown, 36, of his list of clients in the mining industry. 

Brown, who lives here in Elko, owns an equipment transport company servicing the mines.

(Friday’s labor data, showing more than 240,000 jobs added last month, drove gold prices down by a percentage point, though not enough to make people like Brown worry.)

Romney’s speech inside an airport hangar here included references to the local economy. Joined on stage by Nevada’s lieutenant governor, Brian Krolicki, the former Massachusetts governor joked about how it may be easy to assume there is “nothing” in the barren high desert surrounding this small town.

"Some of that nothing you have under the ground, that gold stuff, that's doing pretty good for you right now too," Romney said, earning the loudest cheers of any remark this afternoon.

Earlier Friday, in the city of Sparks, east of Reno, Romney struck a more sober tone, walking a tightrope between optimism about the improving economy, and blaming President Obama for the slow pace of the economy's rebound.

“This recovery has been slower than it should have been, people have been suffering for longer than they should have had to suffer. Will it get better? I think it’ll get better," he said during a business roundtable.

But in Elko, Romney found himself buoyed by a receptive crowd that also included tourists in town for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

“He has the business expertise that he needs to get this company back on track economically. I believe in the values that he espouses, and he’ll make a good president,” said Scott Anderson, a banker from Salt Lake City in for the festival.