Photo: Jim Watson/AFP
It was pouring buckets at the shipyards in Newport News on Monday, but a bright yellow sun might as well have been shining down on Mitt Romney.The Republican flagbearer is walking tall four weeks before the US election, and a little rain — or a lot, as it turned out — wasn’t going to stop him from addressing vocal supporters who came to give a boost to the presidential candidate who was nearly written off last month.
“And people wonder why it is I’m so confident we’re going to win. I’m confident because I see you here on a day like this,” Romney, clad in a black North Face windbreaker, told a crowd of about 500 on a windswept plaza.
Umbrella-less, he spoke in the downpour for nearly 15 minutes, and glad-handed supporters on a rope line for at least another 10.
Republicans are energized. It was virtually doomsday for them two weeks ago, when Romney was under assault for a secret video made public in which he is heard denigrating the “47 per cent” of Americans who pay no federal income tax and live off government handouts.
Obama enjoyed a poll bump after his party’s convention. The Republican gathering did not do the same for Romney.
Then the first debate happened last Wednesday, with a TV audience topping 70 million. Romney was seen as the clear winner, and analysts pointed out how the nominee turned an important corner; he convinced independents and undecided voters that he had presidential calibre.
The debate was seen as a failure for Obama, who appeared listless and uninspired about having to defend his job against an aggressive interloper.
If Obama seemed to lose his mojo — perhaps temporarily — Romney has found his footing. By the weekend, his campaign audiences swelled; 12,000 people were at his Sunday rally in Florida.
“I think Mitt has hit his stride… because he has sought to make this race about the big choice voters face” on the economy and the direction of the country, Romney senior advisor Kevin Madden told AFP.
“As for a new energy, we are definitely seeing a surge in enthusiasm with supporters feeling like they are now part of a bigger movement to help elect Romney and really make a difference. He’s feeding off of that energy.”
By some counts Romney may have found himself in an unfamiliar place on Monday: the lead.
New polls show Romney clawing back substantial ground against his rival, with one survey by the Pew Research centre, conducted after the debate, showing Romney surging into a 49-45 per cent lead among likely voters.
This represented a stunning reversal from a Pew poll conducted September 12-16 that gave Obama an eight-point lead.
The debate win “gave a tremendous boost to his personal image, which was a real problem in September, coming out of the conventions and coming out of the gaffes that he had,” Pew president Andrew Kohut told the PBS News Hour.
Michigan pollsters EPIC-MRA on Monday showed Romney erasing seven points of his 10-point deficit to Obama in the battleground state.
“Romney has come back like gangbusters,” EPIC-MRA president Bernie Porn said in the Detroit Free Press. “Whether or not it’s long-lasting, only time will tell, but probably the remaining debates will be key.”
Romney acted like a man seizing his moment. After a speech at Virginia Military Institute in which he assailed Obama’s foreign policy “failures,” he turned on the charm.
His campaign bus whizzed past Virginia’s Fairfield Elementary School, where dozens of students lined the road and waved. The bus made an impromptu U-turn, and Romney stepped off and into a crowd of children who burst into gasps and giggles.
“It was his idea,” a Republican official travelling on the campaign bus said of Romney’s stop.
The candidate was showing off a personality far more confident than the reserved display of recent months.
As the campaign plane prepared to take off for Newport News, a grinning Romney walked to the back of the cabin and handed out McDonald’s hamburgers to reporters.
Romney hits the trail Tuesday in Iowa and then Ohio, and while he will be enjoying his resurgence, his campaign is aware that a month is an eternity in politics.
“It’s still a close race and will be a hard-fought one to the end,” Madden said.
Copyright (2012) AFP. All rights reserved.
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