SANFORD, Fla. Mitt Romneys sprint through five rallies in four states began on a misty morning along Floridas Interstate 4 corridor, a fitting start since the race could come down to the voters in this heavily populated stretch from Tampa to Orlando.
The former Massachusetts governor arrived in Florida around 1 a.m. local time, six hours before the doors were set to open at the airplane hangar in Sanford, an Orlando suburb, and had his usual predawn wakeup call. But he walked briskly up on to the stage, slapping high-fives along the way.
This is quite a gathering today. This is quite a welcome that youve provided me. Your voices are not just heard in this hangar, theyre being heard all over the nation. And even though Ann is in a different city this morning, they are being felt your voices in both of our hearts, he said.
Over the past few days, crowds have met him with a countdown chant: Three. More. Days. to Two. More. Days. On Monday, Romney had the luxury of adding a new word to the mix tomorrow which he must have mentioned several dozen times.
The enthusiasm of the Sanford crowd which chanted 45! 45! as the would-be 45th president delivered his remarks appeared to energize Romney. He took a detour from his prepared statement and delivered an extended riff on what a post-Obama future might look like.
Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow, he said. Tomorrow, we begin a better tomorrow. This nation is going to begin to change for the better tomorrow. Your work is making a difference. The people of the world are watching. The people of America are watching.
We can begin a better tomorrow, tomorrow, and with the help of the people in Florida, thats exactly whats going to happen, he said.
He said President Barack Obama failed to solve Americas challenges because he cared more about a liberal agenda than about repairing the economy. And he urged voters to get out and talk to their neighbors, particularly those with Obama-Biden yard signs, about his plans for the next four years.
Look, Im happy to sit down and discuss this with anyone whod like to, but almost every measure the president took made it harder for the economy to recover and it hurt our fellow Americans, Romney said. Were not just talking about a handful of people. Were talking 23 million Americans are struggling to find a good job. One in six Americans are poor.
The middle class even those that have jobs the middle class is being squeezed, with lower incomes every year and higher prices for everything to health insurance, to gasoline and electricity bills, he said. Its been tough for middle-income Americans, even those that are employed.
He also sounded the theme of bipartisanship as he has religiously in recent days calling for a return to the motto of United we stand.
This unity is a fundamental principle of America. Weve got to restore it. And so were one day away from a fresh start.
One more day! One more day! One more day! the crowd chanted in unison, as Romney smiled.
One day away from the first day of a new beginning, the candidate said.
Romneys final sprint
Romney was making a furious final sprint through the electoral battlegrounds Monday, with five events in four states, including all-important Florida, Virginia and Ohio. The schedule originally said he would finish the campaign with an appearance in the battleground state of New Hampshire, where Romney owns a vacation home and where he launched his candidacy on a sunny Thursday in June 2011.
But with less than 24 hours to go until the polls are open on Election Day, campaign officials said Romneys expected final stop a late-night homecoming rally in Manchester, N.H., headlined by Romney and his wife, Ann, as well as musician Kid Rock would not be the last one after all.
Romney is now set to make a final swing state trip on Tuesday to Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
The last-minute decision is in keeping with a campaign that has continually pushed to find new openings and has edged up relentlessly in the polls, with Romney essentially deadlocked with Obama over the past two weeks in most nationwide surveys.
Tomorrow was on the minds of Romneys traveling press corps, as well. They peppered press secretary Rick Gorka with questions aboard the campaign jet Monday morning about whether Romney was going to Ohio on Tuesday, how Romney was feeling and even what Romney planned to eat on the final day of the campaign.
To the last query, Gorka offered a deadpan answer that nonetheless served as an apt reminder for a press corps that has spent the past year and a half scrambling to chronicle the candidates every move:
Hes going to live beyond Tuesday. The Washington Post contributed.