After a week of particularly difficult headlines, and nearly two months since his last rally here, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney returned to Colorado last night, delivering a stump speech focusing on the economy and President Barack Obama's record -- and not on the recent controversies and discouraging polls his campaign has battled. His visit comes on the heels of the president's last Colorado rally and only days before Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is set to return -- emphasizing how key this swing state is in the final weeks before the election.
"I'll tell you what, it has been an interesting week," Romney said at the start of the rally, held on the campus of D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School in Jefferson County. "The president was being interviewed and I guess he said something a little unusual. He said, you know, you can't change Washington from the inside, you can only change it from the outside. We are going to give him that chance on November 6th!"
The comment earned him loud applause from the crowd of thousands, who waited for hours before Romney finally arrived -- about a half hour later than scheduled.
"Now and then, when I go to various rallies like this, there'll be a couple of people who will start chanting, 'Four more years, four more years,'" Romney said. "That's fine. They can express their First Amendment right. I usually follow up with asking these questions: Do you want four more years of 8 percent or higher unemployment?"
"No!" the crowd shouted back in unison.
"Do you want four more years with 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job?"
"Do you want four more years where every single year, median incomes go down?" he said. "Do you want four more years where half the kids coming out of college can't find a college-level job?"
"No!" the crowd continued.
"It's very clear," Romney said. "We can't afford four more years like the last four years. That's why we're going to get change finally in Washington that the people of America deserve."
The presidential candidate presented Obama's reelection as a dangerous plan to stick to the status quo, which has not worked, he said.
"He's going to continue the policies of the last four years. He calls his campaign slogan 'Forward,'" Romney pointed out.
"Over a cliff!" interjected a supporter.
"I think forewarned is...better," Romney noted, adding, "In November, we will get him out of office.... This is the state to do it.... I'm counting on Colorado."
Continue for more from Mitt Romney's speech plus photos of the rally. The crowd was particularly responsive to the candidate's comments around small businesses and regulation, with Romney telling several anecdotes about specific entrepreneurs he has met along the campaign trail.
While he didn't initially bring up the infamous "you didn't build that" refrain -- a quote from Obama that has became a central talking point for Republicans -- the crowd was happy to do it for him.
As he was speaking about a woman who started a successful upholstery business, someone in the crowd interrupted, shouting, "She built it!"
"Yeah, and she built it, she built it!" Romney responded.
Speaking about another woman who started selling pumpkins from the back of her pickup truck when she was sixteen years old, Romney said, "She now sells more pumpkins and melons than any other organization in the United States of America."
Another supporter interrupted again, shouting, "She built it!"
"Yeah, she built it, too, didn't she?" Romney shouted back.
Aside from his focus on small business and the economy, Romney also took some time in his speech to discuss energy in Colorado.
"My plan is to make sure we take full advantage of oil, gas, coal, nuclear, renewables," he said, adding that he would double licenses and permits and support drilling in the outer continental shelf and in Alaska as well as bring in a pipeline from Canada.
He took a jab at teachers' unions, saying "We...have to make sure our young people get the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow, and that means we cannot sit still with our schools performing nationwide in the bottom third or bottom quartile.... This is the nation that invented public education.... And the key is this: Put our kids and their parents and our teachers first and put the teachers' union behind."
The local Obama campaign and Democratic supporters held a press conference earlier in advance of Romney's rally, focusing on education and how the Republican ticket has proposed cuts to educations that they argue would mean fewer teachers and more crowded classrooms.
Along with telling a few personal stories during his speech -- a tactic emphasized by a lengthy video shown before Romney arrived, focused on his family and his personal life -- the Republican candidate also presented his platform as the patriotic one.
"I understand what it is that made America's economy work from the very beginning," he said. "The founders recognized something profound, inspired, wise -- and that was that our rights came not from the king, but our rights came from God himself.
"This is a nation of dreamers, dreamers who came here, dreamers who still come here from other places," Romney continued. "We build this country. We build this economy."
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