GOP candidate Mitt Romney speaks to supporters in Chester, Ohio as he campaigns in key swing states ahead of the election.
WEST CHESTER, OH -- Launching a final pre-election sprint, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney capped a pivotal day for his campaign with one of his largest rallies ever here in Ohio flanked by the party's top leaders.
Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan told tens of thousands of Ohioans that they were joining a movement to bring change to Washington, an argument set to play out in a state Ryan called the "battleground of battlegrounds."
"I've watched over the last few months as our campaign has gathered, well the strength of a movement," Romney said. "Not only the size of crowds likes this, its the depth of our shared convictions. Our readiness for new possibilities. The sense that our work is soon to begin. its made me strive more to be worthy of your support. To campaign as I would govern. To speak for the aspiration of all Americans."
The event gathered dozens of elected Republicans who will fan out across Ohio and a variety of other swing states this weekend in hopes of pulling those states into the Republican column on Tuesday. The area where Romney held his rally is a more Republican enclave outside of Cincinnati, where the margin between him and Obama could make the difference on Tuesday.
The army of Republican heavyweights included former presidential candidates like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Arizona Sen. John McCain. They will disperse across the country, though no state may be more pivotal to the Republican ticket's fortunes than Ohio.
"Your state is the one I’m counting on by the way. This is the one we have to win," Romney said.
"Ohio you know it -- you are the lynch pin," Ryan said. "You are the battleground of battlegrounds!"
The speech mostly mirrored the "closing argument" Romney first delivered this morning in Wisconsin, promising "real change" to voters who are disappointed with Obama.
Romney attacked President Barack Obama for today's small uptick in the unemployment rate (to 7.9 percent, even as job creation beat expectations with 171,000 new jobs created in October) and chastised the president for telling an Ohio audience "voting is the best revenge" earlier this afternoon.
"Did you see what President Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge," Romney said. "For revenge. Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country."
Before the top of the ticket took the stage, other speakers looked to keep the chilly crowd fired up, following a concert from Romney supporter Kid Rock.
"We are freezin' for a reason, aren't we," joked Sen. Rob Portman, who chairs Romney's campaign in the state, and urged supporters to take advantage of early voting again on Saturday.
"Can we afford four more years like [those under President Obama]?" asked Speaker of the House John Boehner, in whose district the rally was staged. "Hell no we can't!"
As Romney stuck mostly to script, some of the many surrogates who preceded him riffed on a broader scope of issues. Several Republicans, including 2008 nominee and Arizona Sen. John McCain, sharply criticized Obama's handling of a deadly September assault on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Romney had also been a fierce critic of the president's handling of the incident, but has all but dropped that element from his campaign.
Democrats pounced on the rally as evidence that Romney would not govern in the bipartisan manner he regularly promises on the stump.
"Speaker after speaker offered angry, hyper partisan, and widely-debunked attacks that—at times—veered into conspiracy theory territory," said Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith in a statement. "It’s a fitting end to Mitt Romney’s campaign, since he has kowtowed to the far-right wing of the Republican Party throughout the six years he’s been running for President, leaving little doubt that he’d rubberstamp the Tea Party agenda in the White House."