FRANKENMUTH, MI -- Returning to the state where he was raised and which propelled his turnaround in the Republican primary, an enthusiastic Mitt Romney declared Tuesday: "I'm going to win Michigan with your help!"
Energetic (and clearly enjoying himself despite the June heat) the presumptive Republican presidential nominee predicted victory in a typically Democratic Midwestern state for the second day in a row, following his projection on Monday that he'd win Wisconsin.
"I grew up in Michigan as you know, born and raised here and if I'm lucky enough to become president I'll be the first president in American history to be born in Michigan," Romney said to cheers. "And I won't forget Frankenmuth, I won't forget Michigan, I won't forget how much I owe to this great state to the people here, I love this state. It's a beautiful place and it's got terrific people."
Bouyed by a warm reception from the crowd here, punctuated by chants of "Go Mitt Go," and the notable absence of protestors for one of the first times on his six-state bus tour, Romney might be forgiven his optimism thanks in part to family history here, which he and his wife gleefully put on display this morning.
"I can't believe it. We're in Michigan. Yay!" Mrs. Romney exclaimed. "People don't know how wonderful it is to be from Michigan."
The Romneys certainly appreciate Michigan's wonder -- the candidate famously jokes that the trees in the state are the "right height."
Mitt Romney's father was a popular two-term governor here, and his squeaker win over Rick Santorum in his birth state helped put the primary election away for good. But Democrats have carried Michigan in every election since 1988, and President Obama won the state by a stout 17 points in 2008.
Romney's advisers remain confident of their ability to challenge Obama here, however, noting the power of Romney's last name -- Michiganders are used to voting for a Romney, one top adviser explained -- and the success of the state's popular Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, whose "tough nerd" persona and fiscal focus has shown the state a brand of Republicanism they can embrace.
But Romney faces significant challenges here as well, including his opposition to the president's bailout of Detroit automakers. During the primary campaign, Romney regularly mentioned his opposition and said Obama ultimately resorted to a managed bankruptcy for the automakers, which Romney claims was his plan all along. Today, he did not mention the bailout at all.
Instead, Romney made mention of free trade as a lever with which to prop up the auto industry.
"If I'm president, I want to open up new markets for American goods, make sure that places that won't take our cars, they finally knock down those regulations to let our products go in there" Romney said.