This is how a struggling campaign ends: Looking for a come-from-behind miracle in an unlikely place. That’s what drew Mitt Romney to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on a bitterly chilly night before the election.
The key to a Romney victory and the state’s 20 electoral votes will be massive turnout in counties like this one to offset the Democrats’ strength in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. And as thousands flocked to the campaign rally, Republicans could hold out hope that they could do it.
I couldn’t get an exact figure for the crowd but Romney campaign folks said that 32,800 had registered for the event and that looked plausible. Many were bused in for the event. Romney said the crowd size was proof the late momentum was breaking his way.
“Just these last few weeks, our campaign has developed into a movement,” Romney told the crowd. “It is not only the size of the crowds but the depth of the commitment.”
No Republican has won the Keystone State since 1988, but some polls have Romney within striking distance. A recent one by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review even had the race tied. The airwaves have been carpetbombed with round-the-clock ads.
“Pennsylvania is in play!” said Republican Governor Tom Corbett. Many in the crowd echoed that sentiment.
“Pennsylvaniais going for Romney this year,” said Curt Gasper, a voluable real estate salesman and Tea Partier from Southampton. He was canvassing the night before and marveled at how few Obama signs there were compared to four years ago.
But that wish has been pursued by previous Republican campaigns too. George W. Bush and John McCain concluded their bids with late pushes here to in the hopes of an upset. Both came away empty-handed.
It couldn’t have helped that Romney didn’t exactly electrify the crowd either. Never the most charismatic even on his best days, he seemed fatigued and meandering when he took the stage.
His speech included an odd anecdote about encountering a flag once involved in the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. It was meant to be inspiring but the point never came across and the crowd grew restless.
Still, it wasn’t his charisma that drew the crowd. For many in Pennsylvania, there has been no economic recovery and several in the crowd said they were fed up and ready for change yet again. Romney urged them to reach out to their neighbors and bring them to the polls.
“Reach across the street to that neighbor with the other guy’s yard sign,” he said.