Mitt Romney neared the end of his presidential campaign with a spirited rally in Fairfax Monday afternoon — part of a final push to gather precious Northern Virginia votes on the eve of a hotly contested election.
Thousands lined up outside the Patriot Center at George Mason University to show their support for the Republican presidential hopeful, who pitched a message central to his campaign: that the economy is broken and he is the one who can fix it. While both campaigns have showered enormous amounts of money and resources to persuade undecided Virginia voters over the past few months, Monday's rally was in large part a bid to retain enthusiasm among local supporters and ensure their appearance at the polls Tuesday.
"Now let's make sure that we get everybody out to vote on Tuesday — everybody you know!" Romney said, to cheers, with his wife Ann standing beside him.
Speakers at the rally could have comprised a "who's who" list of Virginia Republicans: Congressman Frank Wolf (10th District), Senate candidate George Allen, 11th congressional District hopeful Chris Perkins, 8th district congressional candidate Patrick Murray, state delegates Jim LeMunyon (67th district) and Tim Hugo (40th district). In addition, Governor Bob McDonnell, who had just wrapped up a weekend of campaigning among Asian-American communities with Romney's sons, introduced the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney—whose voice was at times a bit hoarse from so many recent speaking engagements—spent much of the time talking about the economy.
"Did Obamacare bring any new jobs?" Romney said. "Did his war on coal and oil and gas create new jobs? Did those Dodd-Frank regulations make it easier for banks to make loans to people? Does raising taxes put people to work?"
The crowd roared back, "No!" after each question.
"I've balanced budgets. You have to do that in business, or you go bankrupt," Romney said. "I've balanced budgets in my state and at the Olympics. I'm going to use that skill to help balance our federal budget, to help build jobs and get rising take-home pay."
"If you believe we can do better...and if you are tired of being tired, I ask you to vote for real change," he added. The banner behind him read: "Real change on day one."
The Fairfax appearance was part of a months-long effort to win Virginia—particularly in the Northern area—which both campaigns see as crucial to victory. Vice-president Joe Biden spent Monday campaigning in Sterling, and President Obama campaigned over the weekend in Bristow.
Virginia, once a reliably red state, voted for Obama in 2008. Current polls show a razor-thin edge of support for Obama. Romney's outcome in Virginia may well depend on the enthusiasm of local supporters like Jayme Ryan, of Culpeper, who brought her three young sons to the rally.
Ryan's boys had the day off from school, so, "instead of taking the day off, we decided to continue their education," Ryan said. Over the past few months the boys have developed an interest in government and were thrilled to shake Romney's hand at the end of the rally.
"We've been talking about the election a lot over the last few months, and they have learned a lot about working hard for their country," Ryan said.