Mitt Romney dropped into Florida for a final rally Monday morning, underscoring how critical the state is to his hopes of defeating President Barack Obama, and promised to deliver on the change he said his rival failed to see through.
"We need every single vote in Florida," Romney told a charged-up crowd of a couple thousand at an airport hangar. "We can begin a better tomorrow, tomorrow."
Romney steeped his standard message about jobs and the economy with a heavy appeal to change — attempting to seize the mantle that swept Obama into office in 2008.
"The question of this election really comes down to this: Do the people of America want four more years like the last four years?" he asked. "Or do you want real change, finally?"
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The audience broke into a chant, "One more day, one more day!"
"I think you know that the president promised change but he couldn't deliver change," Romney continued. "I not only promise change, I have a record of achieving it," touting his record as governor of Massachusetts.
"I'll bring people together. I won't just represent one party. I'll represent one nation," Romney said to applause. He mocked Obama's 2012 slogan, "Forward!"
"I call it forewarned," Romney said.
But the soaring enthusiasm did not completely overshadow the reality of Romney spending time in a state his campaign would have liked to have secured by now. Florida is living up to its reputation as an unpredictable state.
A new poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling, a group aligned with Democrats, showed the race in Florida as tight as possible. Obama was leading 50 percent to 49 percent, with 473 respondents choosing Obama and 472 picking Romney. A Jacksonville Times-Union/InsiderAdvantage poll released Sunday night had Romney up 52-47.
Romney adviser Stuart Stevens said in an interview, "We feel very confident about Florida." Why the visit, then? "We don't take anything for granted. We're going to work it."
Florida is the biggest of the swing states with 29 Electoral College votes and Romney's plane touched down in the heart of it all.
"I-4 corridor, baby. It's all about you now," said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry, one of several speakers to warm up the crowd for Romney.
Other speakers included Gov. Rick Scott, who remains unpopular in public opinion polls and has been distanced from Romney's campaign, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Mack said Romney needed another Florida Republican in the U.S. Senate to allow Romney to accomplish his agenda. Chances are, however, that Democrats will hold the Senate, and Republicans the House. Romney has been moderating his message in recent weeks and stressed his desire to reach across the aisle. He said Monday he would meet regularly with leaders in both parties.
"I'm terrified of that," said Jeffrey Lain, 58, who attended the rally. "He can say he's going to reach across, reach across, reach across. He's going to have to do a lot of sucking up. To me, that means a hell of a lot of compromising. We have got to dominate the freaking Senate."
Barbara Carter, 59, of Winter Park said she expected Romney to not only take Florida but to exceed expectations across the country.
"I've never seen such enthusiasm in all the years I've been voting. I think the American people are finally waking up to the mistakes of this presidency," she said.
Carter said she's seen a transformation among other Republicans in support for Romney. A year ago, she said, "People were like, 'I don't know. He seems kind of lackluster.' They said he's wealthy. I say, 'He's earned what he's got, that's what Americans do.' Now people come to my house for Romney signs."
Romney urged people to reach across the yard to the neighbor supporting Obama. "We've journeyed far and wide this campaign. And now we're almost home. One final push is going to get us there. ... The door to a brighter future is open, it's waiting for us. I need your vote. I need your help."
But first more campaigning. Romney jumped on his plane to Virginia. He also had stops Monday in Ohio and New Hampshire.