Standing in front of around 10,000 supporters at by far his most extravagant Colorado rally of the presisdential race, Mitt Romney last night took in the breathtaking sight of Red Rocks Amphitheatre filled with cheering swing-state voters who want him to be the next president.
"Wow, that's a Colorado welcome, I gotta tell you," he said.
"Boy, what a place this is," he continued. "To come here and look at these extraordinary mountains.... You look at the handiwork of our creator and it's just overwhelming."
Speaking to the crowd alongside running mate Paul Ryan, who has been quick to mention his love of the mountains on his frequent Colorado visits, Romney quickly pivoted from his appreciation of the outdoor venue to offering his take on the state of the campaign exactly two weeks before election day.
It's the narrative his campaign is pushing in the final countdown: Romney is on the rise and gaining the momentum he needs to win. To some, he is still riding the wave from the president's botch debate performance in Denver -- and Romney's team is presenting the Obama campaign as one that is struggling to maintain its lead.
This story is one the Romney campaign hopes will provide the final chapter in Colorado, where most polls show the two in a statistical dead heat -- making the state a total toss-up in the final weeks, and one that is a crucial ingredient in the path to victory.
To bolster excitement, the campaign also brought out Kid Rock and Rodney Atkins last night.
"Now, I'm not sure how busy you've been the last few weeks, but did you get a chance to watch the debates?" he asked the crowd, prompting loud screams and cheers. "They have supercharged our campaign, I've gotta tell you that. And you know, we're on the home stretch now. and I think the people of Colorado are going to get us all the way there. What do you think?"
He continued, "What you're seeing across this country...you're seeing this movement growing. You're seeing people coming together to say, 'We love America. We recognize we can do better.' I came in and some of the folks here were holding signs, 'Democrats for Romney.' I love that. I love that!"
They weren't exactly random folks, but rather a group strategically placed on stage just behind Romney and Ryan, forming the backdrop visible in the large monitors projecting both of their speeches to the huge crowd. After Romney's comments, Ryan pushed the point further, walking over and shaking the Dems' hands before they continued on with the rally.
In the final days of the race, it is the undecided or on-the-fence voters who will make the difference in Colorado, a state where the unaffiliated group is larger than those registered as Democrats or Republicans.
The importance of swaying those swing voters came through in both of the candidates' speeches.
"Paul and I have a few things in common. One is, we both learned how to reach across the aisle in our elected office to find ways to work with Democrats, Republicans, independents to get the job done and we need you to reach across the neighborhood to Democrats and independents as well," Romney said. "Make sure they understand that this is a year to vote for real change if you want to have real recovery. I need you to get those folks to vote for us."
It was a theme in Ryan's introduction speech as well. He said, "When he was governor of a Democratic state, did he demean and demoralize...the Democrats? No! He reached across the aisle."
Continue for more from Romney's speech, comments from supporters and more photos of Red Rocks. Romney's jabs at Obama focused on some campaign messages of the president, which he cast as petty and a sign of the opposition falling apart.
"Look at the Obama campaign. It's reduced to talking about smaller and smaller things. They're talking about saving characters on Sesame Street. They're talking about silly word games," he said. "The attacks on us -- that does not make an agenda for the future."
He added, "What you're seeing from the Obama campaign is an incredibly shrinking campaign."
Four more years of Obama means rising debt and continuing unemployment, he said.
"If Paul and I are elected -- and we will be elected by you -- then we're actually going to pull back federal spending...and we're going to finally get America on track to a balanced budget," he said.
Romney also said he understands the pain that comes along with being unemployed. "You know, it's not just about the money. It also has a big impact on how you feel about yourself and about your relationship with others. And sometimes even your faith is tested."
Later, he said, "I think of a single mom who scrimps and saves so she can provide a good meal to her child at the end of the day. Or to a dad that's got two jobs right now -- two jobs so that he can make sure his kids have clothes that don't make them look different than the other kids at school. I think of the mom and dad who are saying to each other, 'We are not gonna exchange gifts this Christmas, because we want to make sure our kids have a good Christmas.'"
He continued, "It is in our heart. It is in the American way to give to others. We are a compassionate and caring and patriotic and God-loving people."
Supporters after the speech said that this event provided the kind of energy the campaign needs as election day nears.
"It's inspiring to see how many people came out to support. It has to give him hope," said Ashley McCarthy, 25, of Littleton.
"It was electrifying," said Mike Baker, 48, of Golden, who sat on stage behind Romney and Ryan. "This is about getting America back on track."
His wife Lou added that it was motivating to sit next to the so-called Democrats for Romney, and that people seem to get that the economy just isn't getting better.
"I tell that to voters -- you feel it in your pocketbook," she said.
Supporter Laurie Vaggalis, 52, who lives in Morrison, said she's confident Romney will win Colorado and the country. "He has the leadership ability.... He's just got to keep acting presidential."
Continue for more photos.
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See our full slideshow from the rally.