WEST CHESTER, Ohio -- Surrounded by more than two dozen Republican luminaries, Mitt Romney on Friday night made one of his final pitches for votes in Ohio, telling an enthusiastic audience that while President Obama suggested voting as an act of revenge, he wanted them to vote “for love of country.”
The Republican nominee -- who addressed a crowd approaching 25,000 people, the largest of his campaign -- was referring to a comment made by the president during a rally in Springfield Ohio earlier in the day, after the crowd began to boo when he mentioned Romney’s name. “No, no, no, Don't boo. Vote,” Obama told the audience. “Voting is the best revenge.”
Romney, who has been portraying Obama as a divisive leader in his stump speech of late, used the comments to highlight his point.
“Did you see what President Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge,” he said, pausing and then repeating the line for emphasis. “For revenge. Instead, I ask the American people to vote for love of country.”
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Saturday that the comment was prompted by what she called Romney's "scare tactics," such as an ad implying that auto jobs would be moved to China that has come under widespread criticism.
The Romney ad was "frightening workers in Ohio into thinking, falsely, that they're not going to have a job," Psaki said, according to Yahoo News. "And the message he was sending is if you don't like the policies, if you don't like the plan that Gov. Romney is putting forward, if you think that's a bad deal for the middle class, then you can go to the voting booth and cast your ballot."
During a subsequent conference call with reporters, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said Romney's argument "seems very small" as a final statement of his campaign. He also cited the auto ad and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani calling for Obama's resignation, referring to the latter as "the kind of thing you do in a banana republic."
The GOP event, which featured more than 40 prominent Republican politicians and Romney family members (and a few of Romney’s former GOP rivals) served as a kind of final pep rally for Republicans. It also was Romney’s final joint rally with his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
Over and over, the Republican candidates paid homage to Ohio’s VIP status in the race. Even though polls consistently have shown Obama maintaining a slim lead in the state, Ryan called it the “linchpin” and the “battleground of battlegrounds” on the electoral map.
“Your state is the one I’m counting on, by the way,” Romney reminded the crowd. “This is the one we have to win.”
Starting on Saturday, the surrogates will fan out across the country for the final push to get voters to the polls. Romney said their efforts will be known as the Romney-Ryan Real Recovery Road Rally – “R6” for short.
The former Massachusetts governor continued to portray himself as a leader who will reach across the aisle to work with Democrats in Congress if elected. At the rally, he suggested that voters would need to do the same after the election.
“On Nov. 7, we'll get to work. We'll reach across -- we're going to reach across the street to that neighbor, with the other yard sign,” he said referring to the state’s Obama supporters.
Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith, however, said in response that the rally offered little indication that Romney would truly govern in bipartisan fashion.
“Anyone looking for a positive, forward-looking vision at Mitt Romney’s Ohio event tonight was surely disappointed," Smith said. "Speaker after speaker offered angry, hyper partisan, and widely-debunked attacks that—at times—veered into conspiracy theory territory. 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."
Romney was visibly moved by the size of the crowd that turned out to see him, and suggested that it was a sign of continuing momentum.
“I've watched over the last few months as our campaign has gathered, well, the strength of a movement," he said. "Not only the size of crowds likes this, it's the depth of our shared convictions. Our readiness for new possibilities."
But it was the promise of a mere four more days that fired up the crowd the most. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio congressman and the last of the surrogates before Romney and Ryan spoke, called to the crowd, “We’ve got less jobs and we’ve got less freedom. Do we want four more years like that?”
“No,” they responded.
“Can we afford four more years like that?”
“No!” they yelled.
If there was any doubt, Boehner yelled back at them, “Hell no, we can't!”
Among other surrogates, there was plenty of focus on promises made and broken from the president, particularly his pledge to bring people together. Romney and Ryan have made their own promise of bipartisanship a central focus of the final weeks of their campaign. And many of the Republican speakers talked of getting the country back.
"This is our moment, Ohio, this is the time when we want to wake up on Wednesday morning and see that we met the moment,” Ryan said. “We want to make sure that we talked to everybody we know that thought hope and change sounded good, but they now know it didn't work.”