Posted on | January 27, 2012 | 64 Comments
John McCain, Luis Fortuno and Mitt Romney during
rally at Lanco & Harris, Orlando, Jan. 27, 2012
If you don’t vote for Mitt, why do you hate America? That was the fundamental theme of Friday’s super-patriotic rally for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at an industrial warehouse here.
After a three-hour drive from Jacksonville, I arrived slightly late and was stunned by the size of the crowd, as evidenced by the cars parked streetside and in every parking lot near the Lanco & Harris warehouse. Four TV satellite trucks were parked near the loading dock, and as I walked up the ramp into the warehouse, some cranky geezer was onstage ranting about how he was fed up with all these darned debates.
“Nineteen of ‘em! I’m tired of the mud wrestling!” the geezer said, provoking applause from the crowd of about 500 packed into the warehouse. As I got closer to the stage, I recognized the cranky geezer as Sen. John McCain, who then said: “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!”
OK, maybe I just imagined that last quote, which didn’t show up in Maggie Haberman’s report for the Politico, but I’m sure I got the trademark cranky-geezer tone just right.
Exactly why the Romney campaign wants this elderly loser campaigning for them, I don’t know. McCain lost Florida by 200,000 votes four years ago. But there are lots of grumpy old folks in Florida who are registered Republicans, and maybe having McCain stumping for Mitt generates some sympathy or something.
Anyway, the crowd was big and enthusiastic, and I worked my way around to the other side of the stage where I saw Eric Ferhnstrom, one of Romney’s top advisers, and asked him, “Y’all got this pretty much locked up, don’t you?”
The polls show Romney pulling away here in Florida, but Ferhnstrom wouldn’t admit the obvious: Mitt’s going to win this one in a landslide. Instead, he merely agreed that “the trend is encouraging,” and said, “Mitt hasn’t won a day since he won South Carolina.”
Which is true. For the past week, Newt’s been swinging wildly, and desperation is not attractive. He’s headed for a failure of Perry-eque proportions here, and the none-too-subtle assertion that Newt’s the victim of an Establishment conspiracy — a myth that even Sarah Palin has apparently bought into — only makes it more embarrassing.
The main point of tonight’s rally was for Mitt to collect the endorsement of the Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno who, in keeping with the super-patriotic theme, praised Romney for being “committed to protecting the homeland, and that includes Puerto Rico.”
It was hard to miss the implication that, if any of the other Republicans gets the nomination, Puerto Rico will be overrun by Iranian terrorists. But the subtexts of campaign rhetoric are generally lost on crowds of jazzed-up enthusiastic partisans, so Fortuno’s comment was cheered by the audience with the same fervor as they had cheered McCain’s earlier darn-these-stupid-debates comment.
Anyway, the crowd was large and as rabidly as pro-Romney as any crowd I’ve seen and they didn’t seem any more “Establishment” than any other GOP crowd you might find during this campaign.
Eventually, I found Sarah Rumpf, who had an assistant shooting video of Mitt’s speech. And then afterwards, I bumped into Dave Weigel, who was wondering what percentage of the audience might be Mormon.
“All of them,” I said. “They’re everywhere. We’re surrounded by ‘em. The place is swarmin’ with Mormons.”
Which might be about half-true. Sarah had told me that there are a lot more Mormons in Central Florida than most people suspect. Nobody has any solid statistics on how many LDS there are in the Sunshine State, but they are sufficiently numerous as to give Romney a solid “base” of core supporters, in the same way that dopehead college kids give Ron Paul a solid base, or angry middle-aged guys form the core of the Gingrich grassroots.
And that’s probably enough raw slander for one night. I’m supposed to be driving down to Naples, where Dan Collins‘s parents have a condo they’re not using. There aren’t any campaign events near Naples tomorrow, but I’ve got unlimited mileage on this rented Chevy, so what do I care? Besides, I need some rest, before I get all cranky and start grumbling about these darned debates — “You kids get off my lawn!”
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The rock-star candidate shakes hands after his speech.
Sarah Rumpf (right) and her assistant, whose name I forgot.