Jim Harrold is a Gulf War veteran and a public high school teacher who lives in Florida. On Saturday night, he attended a political rally in Land O’ Lakes near Tampa with his girlfriend Brenda.
After parking the car, they had to walk more than two miles to get to the high school football stadium where 15,000 other voters were gathering to hear Mitt Romney speak. But Jim and Brenda thought the effort was worth making.
After all, they had good company on their stroll. They spoke with a girl who had just turned eighteen, a woman in her sixties walking with a cane.
No matter what anyone’s age, all around them seemed excited to be out sharing a special evening.
Once inside the venue, Jim and Brenda stood on the football field, which was packed with a friendly crowd. Jim found the number of young adults heartening, but he focused the most on the many families that had gathered, the young children laughing with their parents.
At one point, a video played on a big screen and underscored how important family has always been to Mitt Romney. Jim thought Romney’s love for his wife seemed very genuine. Romney often told Ann that what she was doing with their kids was far more important than anything that Romney was doing with his work.
While he wouldn’t say President Obama feels any differently about the importance of his wife and girls, Jim found himself thinking Romney’s values would be good values to take into the White House.
When the GOP’s candidate for president finally took center stage, the crowd “ignited with enthusiasm.” In contrast to the wooden man the media has often tried to create, the real Romney was “very charismatic and funny.”
Expressing what many at the rally thought, Romney proclaimed, “Obama didn’t inherit a bad economy. He inherited the greatest nation in the world.”
From where he was standing on the field, Jim “felt a feeling of hope that [he] had not felt in a while.” Jim thought it was especially impressive how Romney talked about reaching across party lines, which is something Jim doesn’t think President Obama has ever done very well.
Furthermore, after what has felt like an interminable period of malaise for many Republicans, Romney had no problem tapping into a desire for actual change. He said, “Obama says, ‘four more years,’ and we answer ‘ten more days.’”
The crowd gleefully chanted back, “Ten more days! Ten more days!”
After a moment of listening to this, a smiling Romney lightly joked, “You know, we will have to change that tomorrow.”
It is true that polls show a tight race remains in Florida, a serious battleground for voters. As in other years, no one will be able to call the Sunshine State until the votes are actually counted.
However, as the Land O’ Lakes rally illustrates, there’s plenty of red in Florida, and Romney has been steadily gaining ground. Outside the media’s punditry, miles away from Washington, Romney’s supporters are enthusiastic and energized. They recognize this is not 2008. This time, the passion is all on their side.
For his part, after the Land O’ Lakes rally, Jim said, “If I had any doubts, they disappeared last night.”
If Mitt Romney keeps this up—if he continues to secure votes from people like Jim and Brenda in these final days, real representatives of what is middle class America—he’ll handily win this election.