The Presidential Preference Election is coming up and will be held on Tuesday, February 28th. In preparation for the election, CNN will be hosting a televised debate at the Mesa Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, February 22nd.
Both Arizona and Michigan are holding an election on the 28th and then the big Super Tuesday election will be following a week later on March 6th.
According to the Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll, 26% of voters strongly approve of President Obama's performance and 39% strongly disapprove. He is currently leading Mitt Romney by 48% to 42%.
With Rick Santorum's recent wins in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado, some have speculated that Romney might be losing his edge in the election. However, judging by the crowd's reactions at the rally, they were pretty confident that the more polished Romney was doing well.
The rally started off with the anthem sung by Michelle Moyer. After a slight delay attributed to Mitt Romney being stuck in traffic and a few extra songs by the band, Johnny Anonymous, Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin opened with short speech declaring Mesa as "ground zero for the rest of the primary season" and declaring that "our next President" would defend the Constitution, "stop Obamacare," and "spend more time creating jobs than suing the state of Arizona," which drew a loud applause from the crowd.
Then the Mayor of Mesa, Scott Smith, came to the podium to introduce Mitt Romney. He joked that we are "faced with the most pivotal election we have seen, but enough about our mayoral election." He described himself as an "enthusiastic endorser of Governor Romney." He described the reasons for his support as he wanted a President who could lead, had experience, and the ethics, and "could lead America to a greater level to make us more secure, make us more prosperous, and do it by following conservative principles that we know will work."
Governor Romney then walked out to the cheering crowd to the refrain of "I'm a Believer" played by the band. The crowd then cheered and chanted "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt."
Over the next twenty minutes, Governor Romney spoke of his vision for his candidacy. He touched on a variety of topics such as the new budget, claiming the President doubled the budget. He then spoke of his vision of conservatism, espousing the Declaration of Independence as the road map for the future. He accused people who go to Washington as falling into the idea that the government is the source of our greatness.
He then attributed his views of conservatism as coming from his family, his faith, and his business. He spoke of his grandfathers who immigrated to America to make better lives for themselves and start businesses.
On the subject of his business, he lived on the notion that "you either balance your budget or you go bankrupt." His stint as Governor was then touted as balancing the budget, making their schools number one in the nation, and empowering the state police to enforce immigration laws by making agreements with ICE to "get those who are illegal out of our state," drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
He then described social issues like same-sex marriage by leading the fight to get a state constitutional amendment to reverse a same-sex court ruling. Romney missed it by one vote but claimed he was able to enforce an obscure 1913 law that "kept Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage."
Romney then went on to state that he felt that it would be better that we have a President who has business experience rather than working in government all their lives. And then he took a dig at President Obama as "someone who had never run anything. We're not going to do that in the Republican Party. Let's not nominate someone who has not run anything and has not been a leader."
On fiscal issues, Romney opined, "if I am President, I will cut spending and I will cap spending." Then he said, "One of the most important safety nets in our society is Medicare for our seniors and social security for our seniors. This President miraculously… today with his new budget, had nothing to say about making sure that those programs are solvent and permanent. If I am President, I will save Social Security and Medicare and make sure they are not killed by future generations."
On health, he stated that "this President seems to think that if we have a problem with healthcare, the best way to solve that problem is to have government-run healthcare." At which point the crowd booed loudly and Romney continued, "I will repeal Obamacare" to the one of the loudest cheers of the night.
On energy, he criticized Obama for delaying the Keystone Pipeline and went on to propose more drilling to use local energy. He then criticized Obama's military spending saying that our country was short on ships and new aircraft and promised to add one hundred thousand new troops to the military along with increasing veteran healthcare spending. He went on to accuse President Obama of trying to convert the country into a "European-style welfare society."
For several minutes he described the hymn "America the Beautiful" and used it to honor the veterans in the audience. He continued to say that the founding fathers "recognized that they were not writing for just their time but the principles they wrote about were enduring.
"We face real challenges...challenges at home and abroad. At home, excessive levels of debt and an economy that is not performing as it should. Abroad, we have the Jihadists who want to kill us. We see China becoming more and more assertive in their rights to the South China Sea and other places. And with Iran about to become nuclear, this is a very dangerous and trying time. The right direction is to see the Declaration and the Constitution as our blueprint, and I will."
Outside, there was a contingent of die-hard Ron Paul supporters occupying the street corner of Center and University who were also drawing a fair number of honks from passing cars.
After the rally let out, they had moved to the sidewalk on the street between the amphitheatre and the parking lot and were busy trying to hand out Ron Paul literature. It did not appear that they were having much success converting the Romney fans.
Prior to the rally, other protestors met outside the venue. One of them was a group of young residents who were representing the DREAM Act. This is a proposed bill to allow children who are not US citizens the choice of attending college or enrolling in the military to help them earn a path to citizenship.
Mitt Romney has been opposed to the legislation and prefers instead that they "self-deport." This is a term which has recently been used by Romney and Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, who is a lawyer who has worked much of his life to encourage the passage of laws which will make it difficult for undocumented residents to live comfortably in the country. His hope is that this "attrition by enforcement" with laws like Arizona’s nearly defunct SB1070 will cause them to leave the country. Kobach has been actively advising Romney on immigration related issues during his campaign.
It is possible that such strict policies could end up hurting Romney and other hard line Republicans in key swing states in the general election. The racial make-up of the crowd wasn't lost on reporters at the event. The vast majority of the crowd was white which was significant because the venue is located in the diverse town of Mesa. Considering that Arizona has a thirty percent Latino population, it appeared that few of them were in attendance at the rally.
DREAM Act proponent Erika Andiola explained that "when it comes to the general election, if he does end up as the candidate for the Republican Party, he is going to have to get the Latino voters on his side, otherwise he is not going to win." In regard to Rick Santorum, she said, "our biggest threat is Romney because he has been aligning himself with so many anti-immigrant voters. Santorum has been talking, but Romney has been making action."
Along with the DREAM Act proponents, three people arrived with a dog crate and two dogs as the "Mutts Against Mitt" group, a reference to when Governor Romney once took a family vacation trip and strapped his dog crate to the roof of his car with the family Irish Setter inside, resulting in a rather sick dog.
For more photos of the event, you can visit: http://sandangel.smugmug.com/Category/02-13-2012-Mitt-Romney/