GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up a five-day, six-state tour in Michigan on Tuesday.
Each of the states he visited was won by President Obama in the 2008 election. Each is also shaping up as a potential battleground this year.
In Michigan, the state where Romney was born, he avoided big cities and stayed in places friendly to the GOP. As he traveled east to west across central Michigan by bus, there were some pockets of protesters, but mostly at a distance.
Romney started the day with a rally in Frankenmuth, a replica Bavarian village, where a live polka band played patriotic tunes. At the outdoor rally, Romney’s speech was overwhelmingly about how Obama’s policies have failed.
“Put aside the rhetoric. He’s an eloquent speaker, but listen to the words and then go out and test them. Go talk to small businesspeople who do the hiring and ask: ‘Did Obamacare make it easier for you to hire people?’ ” Romney said, as some in the crowd responded, “No.”
Speaking about the federal budget, Romney said, “I think it’s simply wrong for my generation to spend massively and have these young kids here, with the Detroit Tiger hats on here in the front row, have them know that they’re going to get stuck with massive debts.”
Michigan being Romney’s home state, the crowds know him better than they do elsewhere. And they are more likely to be enthusiastic, like Tom Kennedy, 68, who owns an excavation business.
“I’m a supporter of Mitt Romney,” Kennedy says. “I think he’s honest, I think he’s sincere, and his business background is what we need to run this country.”
But nearby, retail consultant Randy Janowicz, 51, is not yet sold. He says he’s an independent who voted for Obama four years ago. This year, he says, he’s up in the air.
Janowicz says Romney needs to talk more about what he’ll do rather than what’s wrong with the president.
“Everybody’s for reducing taxes. I’m for reducing taxes,” Janowicz says. When asked about the deficit, he says: “The devil’s in the details. And if you’re going to slay that devil, you’ve got to say which part of his pitchfork you’re going to slice off.”
Janowicz left the event frustrated, though still undecided.
The sentiment at many Romney rallies is more anti-Obama than pro-Romney. In Frankenmuth, that’s something Kennedy says he’s noticed, too.
He wistfully recalls the excitement he felt back in 1980 when he saw Ronald Reagan campaign in Michigan.
“Ah, my goodness! There was static electricity everywhere. … He had that personality, and he was candid,” Kennedy says.
Romney “needs to start lighting fires,” he says.
After the Frankenmuth event, Kennedy said he thought Romney was getting better — more fiery.
The bus tour itself has been far from a blockbuster. Crowds have been small to moderate.
Romney seems to be using each stop to hone his attacks and his humor. That may be what this entire tour has been about: an early summer excursion through states where the candidate will have to be at his best come fall.