Romney: High Point part of ‘pathway to reclaim America’s promise’

by Jordan Green

Gov. MittRomney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and his newly chosenrunning mate, US Rep. Paul Ryan addressed upwards of a thousand supporters in asweltering High Point furniture factory on Sunday as large crowds turned outand the GOP rank and file showed signs of growing enthusiasm for their ticket.

The presidential candidate called the occasion “Day 2 on our pathway to reclaimAmerica’s promise” while standing in front of a backdrop of unfinished chairsand spools of fabric, along with his wife, Ann, and Rep. Ryan’s family.

“We need to restore strong families and strong values, a strong economy thatputs people back to work, and a military that’s second to none,” Romney said. 

The campaign stop at Absolute Style Furniture had people trekking along theshoulder of West Green Drive and waiting for hours in a broad and slow-movingline that snaked around industrial buildings. Two hours before Romney andRyan’s arrival, the converted manufacturing floor had filled to capacity —1,250 to 1,300 by the count of High Point Fire Marshal Michael E. Levins.Others were directed into an overflow building holding up to 2,000. 

“There area lot of pissed-off people,” Levins said. “They said, ‘I drove here threehours.’”  Similar crowds greeted Romney and Ryan at a stop in Mooresville earlier in theday, where 1,700 people crowded into the NASCAR Technical Institute and somewere turned away who could not be accommodated in a second overflowbuilding. 

BeforeRomney and Ryan’s arrival in High Point, several high profile Republicancandidates and elected officials, including US Sen. Richard Burr, worked thecrowd into a state of excitement and anticipation. 

Lieutenantgubernatorial nominee Dan Forest, who worked the lines outside talking tovoters for three hours, captured the mood among candidates and party leaders,who argued that this year’s election is the most important of theirlifetime. 

“I believethis is our generation’s 1776,” Forest said. “America’s at a tipping point.We’re going to decide in November whether we continue the American experienceor tip over into socialism or worse.” 

MelanieMcNamara, owner of Absolute Style Furniture, said her employees asked her whyRomney wanted to come to High Point. “This is an area that was thriving,” shesaid. “This is where manufacturing began. This is where it’s going to continue.This is an area that has been slated for revitalization by the city of HighPoint. And Mitt Romney is going to be the person to lead our country to thatrevitalization.” 

Gubernatorialcandidate Pat McCrory seemed to allude to both to the economic recession underthe watch of President Obama and his defeat four years ago to Democrat BevPerdue, as he rallied the crowd, asking, “Are you ready for a Carolinacomeback? Are you ready for a USA comeback?” 

The crowdresponded by chanting, “USA, USA, USA.” It was one of two chants — the otherwas “Mitt, Mitt, Mitt” — that punctuated the campaign stop. 

The twostops today prior to what is being billed as a “homecoming rally” this eveningin Waukesha, Wis. near Ryan’s hometown of Janesville cut a path through asection of the upper Piedmont that is critical to the Romney campaign’s hopesfor carrying the state of North Carolina. 

John McCaincarried Iredell County, where Mooresville is located, by more than 60 percentfour years ago, and the town is close to the north end of Mecklenburg County, asuburban area rich in Republican votes that is home to Speaker of the HouseThom Tillis. 

High Pointis the second largest city in Guilford County, which was carried by Obama in2008. But the city is adjacent to Davidson and Randolph, two smaller countiesthat provided McCain lopsided margins. 

Democratshave by no means ceded North Carolina to the Republican candidate this timearound, and a consortium of progressive groups, including the NC AFL-CIO,Teamsters Local 391, and Planned Parenthood, planned to protest theRomney campaign outside of Absolute Style Furniture.

WhileRepublican politicians such as US Reps. Howard Coble and Virginia Foxx praisedRomney’s vice presidential pick at the High Point event, surrogates for Obamaheaped denunciation in corresponding measure.

“Byselecting Paul Ryan as his running mate he has truly given in to the radicalright agenda of no government for any purpose,” US Rep. Mel Watt said in ane-mail statement today. “That agenda includes no Medicare for seniors, no helpfor the middle class, no sensitivity for poor people and no help for theunemployed or for students seeking an education. That agenda is one that onlybeilves in making the richest people richer.”

But thedissent heard by the presidential candidate and his Republican supporters camefrom within their ranks. Someone in the audience started shouting the name ofRon Paul, Romney’s libertarian-leaning primary opponent, early in thecandidate’s speech. Romney paused, while the crowd booed and then drowned out theprotester with the “USA” chant.

“You know,it takes a strange character when you act up when we start talking about ourveterans,” Romney said. In fact, the disruption had occurred while the crowdwas cheering in response to a statement by the candidate that they might likehim and his running mate, but that he knew the reason they were there wasbecause they loved their country.

A cry of“We love you, Mitt” could be heard from the crowd as Romney praised his runningmate, the senior budget writer in the US House.

“The reasonI selected this guy to be my running mate is that I wanted someone who is aleader,” Romney said. “He’s a leader. His leadership was formed by virtue ofstrong character. That’s where leadership begins. See, he grew up fast becausehis dad died when he was in high school. The family had to come together, pulltogether…. He planned on doing something else with his career, but, you know,he looked at the country and recognized the real challenges we have, anddecided to go and try to make a difference.”

Ryanreturned the compliment.

“Rememberwhen they had the Olympics back when it was in Salt Lake?” Ryan asked.“Remember the chaos? Remember the waste and public spending? Waste, corruption,bloat — it sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Who did they turn to? This manstanding right here beside me.”

Sentimentsin the crowd were a mixture of party-line enthusiasm, curiosity and excitement.

“I think itcould have been Donald Duck and it would have been a good selection, but Ithink Romney made a good choice with Ryan,” said Kenny Meredith, a commercialreal estate professional in Davidson County. “There’s so much anti-Obama-ism itreally didn’t matter.”

MelanieHarris, a psychologist from Greensboro, pulled out a dog-eared copy of Obama’sbiography, Dreams of My Father, to demonstrate that she was open to considering bothcandidates. She rated her excitement about the Romney-Ryan ticket at a sevenout of 10, and said she looks forward to hearing more from the campaign throughthe convention.

“I think itwas a bold choice [to select Ryan],” she said. “It was riskier than somechoices he could have made. I like it because Ryan is someone who doesn’t tryto sugar-coat things. I like the fact that he is an economist.”

JoAnneWittenborn, a member of tea party-oriented Conservatives for Guilford County,called Romney and Ryan “a dream team,” and said the vice presidential pickshows Romney is “not taking the conservative vote for granted.” She said shehad been excited about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, but felt that Ryan was morequalified for the job because of his more extensive experience.

“If hewould have chosen someone who was not dynamic and not conservative, we wouldhave all voted for him, but I don’t know how hard we would have worked,” Wittenbornsaid. “We would have worked hard regardless but I don’t know with how muchenthusiasm. I’m excited.”