Mitt Romney comes to town, and the place just goes nuts. There’s genuine appeal in the area for Romney and an extreme distaste for Obama to help draw a crowd, but the announcement of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate definitely put the excitement level over the top and today’s event was bigger and more energized than I would ever have expected. In a place like Manassas, that liked Santorum and Ron Paul during the primaries, Paul Ryan is a pick that reassures a lot of people that Romney’s conservative rhetoric is going to be matched with deeds.
Access to this event was severely oversold, which for a national campaign seeking good national media coverage makes some sense, but for locals wanting to feel like they were getting an opportunity to meet a presidential candidate was not quite optimal. Probably a fifth of the crowd had an opportunity to see Romney with their own eyes instead of watching a jumbotron in a parking lot, or seeing nothing at all. The imagery for national media was great — huge, overflowing crowds for as far as you could see. For local residents, used as more of a visual backdrop instead of engaged as voters to be courted, only the high energy atmosphere, plentiful supplies of water provided by the campaign, and the chance to “be there” for a pretty big historic event made it worthwhile. In today’s modern campaigning that’s going to happen pretty often, although it would have made much more sense to put this in a bigger venue where more people could participate up close. The PWC Fair running this week killed that chance, so this probably was the best location that could be found in the area.
Mayor Hal Parrish kicked things off with a good speech that focused on welcoming people to Manassas, what you’d expect a mayor to do. Delegate Jackson Miller gave a really fired-up speech to get the crowd engaged and was one of the highlights. His story about how Obama is touting that Obamacare “is still a BFD” got people fired up. Having him speak was an excellent choice by the Romney campaign, as he was the best of the warm-up acts. Delegate Barbara Comstock followed, giving a pretty unmemorable speech that she stumbled through, making me wonder why she was in the program at all. Virtually no one in Manassas knows her, she’s hardly a good orator by any means, and while she has a connection with the Romney campaign such trivia is utterly meaningless to the crowd.
Then a big break ensued while we waited for the Romney motorcade to arrive and the travelling press pool to set up. While that was happening one of the best orators in Virginia was sitting in the bleachers with nothing to do. Having Delegate Scott Lingamfelter sit on his hands while there’s a long break in the program is an absolutely insane waste of talent.
Then the main act finally was ready. We had George Allen, Bill Bolling and Bob McDonnell give very good speeches that brought back all the energy lost after Barbara Comstock let the crowd’s energy die down. Then it was on to Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan who really got the crowd going with a direct attack on Obama just as a VP candidate should do. Ryan is a great speaker who spoke crisply off the cuff and his command of the issues is tremendous. With a warm-up like that, the crowd was definitely ready for Romney.
Romney, as expected, focused on the economy. Sticking to that major issue is probably the smartest political strategy for his national campaign, although it would have been nice to see him talk about some other issues that local residents are also concerned with. You can tell by his sticking so strongly to a national script that the intent here was to play to a national audience instead of a strictly local one, and that’s fine. Above all else people in Manassas and Prince William County are most concerned about economic recovery and the incompetent way the current administration has bungled the job of getting people back to work and rebuilding our economy. The crowd loved the message and especially appreciated Romney speaking entirely off the cuff — not a teleprompter to be found anywhere. Romney presented a five point economic plan that included domestic energy production, reducing regulation and taxes, and cutting spending that the crowd appreciated a lot.
I’m not sure whether a Republican candidate for president has ever campaigned in Manassas before, but it certainly hasn’t happened lately. The attention is very welcome and hopefully Romney can bring his campaign tour to the Prince William County Fairgrounds later on this cycle where more folks could enjoy it. With ten thousand people eager to show up in a little place like the Harris Pavilion, I’ve no doubt twice that number would jump at the chance to see Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and George Allen in a bigger place that would accommodate a large number of people more easily. Let’s hope that happens.
Some additional notes:
Missing in action today at this historic event were PWC Chairman Corey Stewart, any of the members of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors (as far as I could tell), or Manassas City Councilmen Members other than Mark Wolfe, Ian Lovejoy and Mark Aveni. Stewart was in Albemarle County campaigning, but I have no idea where the others were. UPDATE: Pete Candland was there, but was relegated to the cheap seats along with the rest of us. The Sheriff reports that Caddigan attended as well, but I never saw her.
A few dems showed up today, and true to form they tried to be disruptive by shouting during Paul Ryan’s speech. Nice contrast to the respectful way that Republicans protested Obama’s campaign event in Clifton earlier this month. On that note, it’s interesting to see that Obama couldn’t even fill a high school auditorium in Fairfax County, but Romney pulls a massive ten thousand person crowd to an outdoor event in Manassas.
The dems of course had to trot out a video attacking Mitt Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan, and who do you think shows up on it saying Paul Ryan is a bad guy? None other than Krystal Ball, of Rudolph the Sex Toy Nosed Reindeer fame. If this is the pinnacle of intellectual might Democrats can muster, Paul Ryan is going to end up at least as popular as Mitt Romney.
If you’re on Facebook, I have a few photos of today’s event up there. This link should work to see them.
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