CELINA - In the final days of the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are swinging through some of the most solidly Republican counties in the state, trying to make sure those they’ve already won over show up at the polls on Nov. 6.
“Let’s remember that this is the most important election of our lifetime – no matter what generation you come from,” Ryan told an energized crowd jammed into the Celina Fieldhouse.
At stop after stop on a two-day bus tour that was originally slated to just feature Ryan, speaker after speaker exhorted Republicans to vote early, then go encourage friends to also vote Republican.
“I’m going to ask you to vote early if you haven’t,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who made similar comments in Cincinnati. “That enables us to bank the votes. It enables you and me to help get other people on the polls on Election Day. Will you agree to do that?”
The duo’s first stop of the day was in Mercer County, a socially conservative, rural county on the Ohio-Indiana border where Obama lost by 43 percent in 2008. On Sunday morning, long lines of Republicans vined around the parking lot of the Celina Fieldhouse and down the neighboring streets. Local officials estimated a crowd of 2,000 in the gym, with thousands more watching via a big screen from the football field. The crowd was moved to its feet when Ryan spoke about the need to emulate success, not punish it. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a job creator in the White House?” Ryan asked.
Romney, meanwhile, continued what’s been a common line of attack throughout the campaign: That Obama offered no new ideas.
“This election is about more of the same or status quo or fundamental change and getting America back to work and that’s what we represent,” Romney said.
He gave shout-outs to children on their parents’ shoulders, acknowledging one boy wearing a Captain America Halloween costume.
“We’ve got Captain America over here,” he said, “Captain, Paul Ryan and I are joining your team real soon.”
He emphasized the need to balance the budget, and said if Obama is elected, taxes will go up.
“There’s no question in my mind that taxes will go up,” he said. “All the spending he’s doing, all the borrowing he’s doing, all the interest associated with that borrowing means that down the road taxes will go up. One thing we will not do is raise taxes on middle class Americans.”
The event was initially billed as an event just with Ryan, but Hurricane Sandy spurred Romney to scrap plans to appear in Virginia today. In Celina, Ryan asked the crowds to pray for those in the path of the storm.
For his part, President Barack Obama has also had to cancel planned campaign stops in Prince William County, Va., on Monday and Colorado Springs, Colo. Obama still plans to make stops in Cincinnati and Akron on Wednesday.
“Nine more days,” Ryan said in Celina. “We will be debating this for nine more days, then, on Nov. 6, you decide. Our obligation to you is to give you, our fellow citizens a very clear choice. That’s what we’re offering.”
“This is one of the most important elections I’ll be able to participate in,” said 21-year-old Austin Ebbing of Coldwater, who is an apprentice at Coldwater Machine. He borrowed his father’s Uncle Sam costume for the event and packed in right in front of the stage and showed up at 9:30 – two solid hours before doors were to open and four and a half hour before Romney and Ryan were to take the stage.
He wore the same getup in Defiance last week for an event with Romney. That Ebbing has been able to go to multiple events with the Republican ticket is a testament to the importance of the state. Where once Iowa and New Hampshire, early primary or caucus states, got the lion’s share of the presidential candidate visits, Ohio appears to be holding its own. Ryan alone has made 16 visits to Ohio since he was tapped in August, making a total of 25 visits during that time. Romney has made 20 during that period and Obama has made 13. Biden has made at least 10, though he made a handful of unannounced stops during his bus tour last week.
“You go back to 2000,” said Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green. “Every election, we’ve been in it.”
Ryan, a Miami University graduate who has been the most regular visitor to Ohio on either ticket since he was tapped as running mate in August, visited New Philadelphia, Zanesville, Circleville and Sabina on Saturday.
Romney will continue his swing through Ohio tomorrow, when he is scheduled to appear at Avon Lake High School near Cleveland. Vice-President Joe Biden will be in Gambier and Wooster on Tuesday. Obama, meanwhile, will be in Cincinnati and Akron on Wednesday. Romney also announced today he’ll be in West Chester Twp. – the hometown of House Speaker John Boehner - Friday with his wife, Ann, and Ryan for an evening event.