Some Republicans have jumped ship at a time that looks tough for their party and presidential nominee John McCain, but Mitt Romney remains as resolute and optimistic as ever.
"I think John McCain is going to surprise a lot of people on Wednesday morning, when they wake up and find out that he won," Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and one-time primary rival of McCain, said in an interview in Henderson on Friday morning. "But he needs Nevada. Nevada and New Mexico are going to be important states."
Romney won Nevada's Jan. 19 caucuses overwhelmingly, a distinction marred by the fact that the other Republican candidates barely competed in the state. Within weeks Romney had dropped out of the race and thrown his support behind McCain, and since then he has been one of McCain's most ardent and active advocates. He didn't even skip a beat after being passed over for the vice presidential nomination.
Democratic nominee Barack Obama, Romney said, "has been measuring the curtains in the White House," but he maintained that American voters are eager to punish such presumptuousness. "As people don't just answer pollsters but actually think about their own future, I think that will bring a surprise in favor of John McCain," he said.
Romney began his day at McCain's regional headquarters at Pecos Road and Interstate 215 and made four more campaign stops in the state: Las Vegas, Reno, Gardnerville and Carson City. Over and over, he tirelessly enumerated McCain's selling points, saying the Republican would enact policies that create jobs while Obama's proposals would worsen the current economic crisis.
"I think Nevadans are very concerned about their economic future," Romney said. "They're seeing a housing market which is disproportionately impacted; they're seeing businesses, particularly tourism, being significantly affected, and they want to see an end to the downturn. The policy that Barack Obama has put forward is the most anti-job program I have seen in my political life. It will deepen the recession and prolong it. And I think that's why Nevadans should think long and hard about who they vote for."
Obama claims his plan would give a tax cut to 95 percent of working families while making the wealthy and big business pay their share. But Romney, a multimillionaire former businessman, said those proposals would ultimately stifle the economy as a whole.
"What Barack Obama wants to do is raise taxes on employers like Joe the Plumber, which I think captured the imagination of a lot of people," he said, referring to the Ohio man who told Obama he was afraid if he purchased the plumbing business he works for he could wind up in the income bracket of people subject to the tax increase.
Since 40 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes, he said, the purpose of the tax increase would be "so he can write checks to people who pay no taxes, and he calls that spreading the wealth around. I think what America realizes is we're better off creating jobs than sending a check from Barack Obama."
Lines such as these were a big hit with the 100 or so volunteers that Romney spoke to in the Henderson office Friday morning, accompanied by Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., who is fighting to keep his seat in Congress, and state Sen. Joe Heck, R-Henderson, whose elected position is also threatened by Democrats' efforts this year.
Democrats "want to put the government in charge of your life," Porter said. "What do we say to that? Absolutely not!"
Volunteer Barbara Lollar, 57, said she found Romney "very heartfelt. He was speaking as if he knew us each as an individual."
And she said she wouldn't be there, putting in hours making phone calls several times a week, if she didn't agree that it could be done. "I totally believe that John McCain is going to be the next president of the United States," she said.
Contact reporter Molly Ball at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.