NEWINGTON, N.H. – Chastising President Obama for urging supporters to vote out of “revenge,” Mitt Romney rallied a chilled crowd on Saturday morning with pledges to form an effective, bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill if he is elected on Tuesday.
“Vote for revenge?” Romney asked an estimated 2,000 people on the tarmac at Portsmouth International Airport. “Here’s what I want to tell you: Vote for love of country.”
The previous day, Obama had told supporters in Ohio to vote, not just boo at the mention of Romney’s name. “Voting is the best revenge,” he said.
Flanked by his wife, Ann, the former Massachusetts governor began a whirlwind finale to his long campaign by thanking New Hampshire voters for helping him become the GOP presidential candidate.
“New Hampshire got me the Republican nomination, and New Hampshire is going to get me the White House,” Romney said in the first of four stops in three swing states on Saturday.
Romney hit familiar Republican themes as he exhorted the crowd in a 15-minute stump speech on a blustery morning.
“President Obama came into office with so many promises and has fallen so short,” he said, assailing Obama as “divisive” and attacking his record on the deficit, health costs, education, and energy.
“Talk is cheap, a record is real and takes hard work, and he has not been able to accomplish it,” said Romney, who offered his one term as governor as a contrasting example of cooperation that turned a budget deficit into a surplus.
“That kind of bipartisanship finally has to be brought to Washington, and I will,” Romney said.
The Obama campaign countered quickly, echoing criticism from some Democratic lawmakers in Massachusetts that Romney had shunned them.
“Mitt Romney can’t be trusted to work across the aisle as president because he’s never done it before. Despite his claims in the final days of this race, Romney refused to work with Democrats as governor,” said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman. “And throughout this campaign, he has shown himself to be too weak to stand up to the far-right wing of the Republican Party.”
Romney, however, said that a second Obama term would produce more of the same: more legislative gridlock, another budget crisis, and a business-hostile economic climate.
“We’ll continue to see the war on oil and gas,” added Romney, who pledged to end American dependence on foreign energy.
In addition, he said, a Romney presidency also would make the needs of students the top priority of education. “The teachers union is going to have to go behind,” Romney said to applause.
“It’s time we lead America to a better place,” Romney said. “I’ve got a clear and unequivocal message for you: America is about to come roaring back.”
Romney kicked off the final, frenetic weekend of the campaign by urging his supporters to vote in a swing state whose four electoral votes could prove critical in a close national race. The latest WMUR Granite State Poll, released by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center on Oct. 22, showed Obama leading, 49 percent to 41.
Signaling that the campaign is nearing an end, Romney paid tribute to the voters he has met around the nation.
“It’s not just the size of the crowds. It’s the conviction and compassion in the hearts of the people,” Romney said. “It’s made me strive to be more worthy of the support I have received across the country and to campaign as I would govern, to speak for the aspirations of all Americans, not just some Americans.”
After the rally, Romney left for swing-state appearances in Dubuque, Iowa; Colorado Springs; and Englewood, Colo. Romney was scheduled to return to New Hampshire on Monday for an election eve speech in Manchester.
Obama is scheduled to appear Sunday in Concord with former President Bill Clinton.
Before Saturday’s rally, standing in the morning chill, Romney supporters said that his business skills are needed to fix the country’s economic problems.
“I like the fact he’s worked in the private sector,” said Alex Gatzoulis, 31, an attorney from Manchester. Gatzoulis stood beside his 74-year-old father, George, who said his personal finances were devastated by the 2008 financial crash.
“I mean, his plan makes sense,” the elder Gatzoulis said of Romney. “Obama is the same thing – more debt.”
The family, his son said, has “been staying afloat, but it hasn’t really gotten better for us.”
Cathy Wiles, 56, who drove to the rally from South Portland, Maine, was blunt. “We’re on a path to destruction if we don’t do something,” Wiles said. “It’s all about the kids right now.”
That theme was echoed by US Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who introduced Romney.
“I believe this is the most important election of my lifetime,” Ayotte told the crowd. “I am the mother of an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old. This is not just about us. This is about what kind of America we will leave for our children.”