Mitt Romney made an appeal to native state Michigan to support him for President in a rally with running mate Paul Ryan today at an apple orchard business in the Republican stronghold of Oakland County.
Mr. Romney took a jab at his Democratic rival, President Barack Obama, while talking about having been born in Detroit and brought up in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
"No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised," Mr. Romney said about him and his wife, Ann Romney, to an outdoor crowd estimated at anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 at Long Family Orchard, Farm, and Cider Mill in Commerce Township about 15 miles west of Pontiac and northwest of Detroit.
The Obama campaign condemned the remarks as a pander to "birthers," people who doubt that President Obama was born in Hawaii.
"Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them.... Governor Romney's decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America," said Ben LaBolt, national Obama press secretary.
The state of Hawaii has verified Mr. Obama's birth certificate, and the Romney campaign insisted Mr. Romney has no doubt that Mr. Obama was born in the United States.
"He's just trying to tell people he's from Michigan, the hospital he was born in, just relating to the crowd," said Kelsey Knight, spokesman for the Romney Michigan campaign.
The rally was staged in front of a large red barn with an old-style windmill. A fiddle band entertained the outdoor crowd.
Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, talked about their youth in Bloomfield Hills in trying to encourage a GOP turnout that would turn the state Republican for the first time in two decades.
His voice showing the strain of frequent speaking, Mr. Romney riffed on a sign he said he saw waved in front of his bus as it approached the rally site. The sign said "four more years," presumably owned by a member of an anti-Romney group whose chanting could be heard down the road from the rally.
"I almost felt like stopping and saying, 'you want for more years of 8 per cent unemployment? You want four more years of record numbers of foreclosures and declining home values? You want four more years of trillion-dollar deficits to pass on to your kids? You want four more years of small business finding it hard to hire people," he said, to responses of "no" from the crowd.
"I don't want four more years of what we have, do you? I want to get America on an entirely different track."
Mr. Romney and Congressman Ryan (R., Wis.), in their short speeches, evoked the Founding Fathers and visions of a humming economy and a strong national defense.
"We face extraordinary challenges in government where year after year after year politicians have been spending massively more than they've taken in," Mr. Romney said. "It's time to have a President who believes in uniting the American people, not dividing the American people."
One supporter, Teri Palen, 56, of nearby Northville, Mich., said she felt Mr. Romney would offer "positive change," and said the election of Republican Rick Snyder as governor in 2010 and the economic improvement in the state has convinced her Michigan would support the Romney-Ryan ticket.
"From what I see and the people that I talk to, Obama never lived up to any of his promises and that's what they were going on three and a half years ago," said Ms. Palen, a self-employed marketer.
An average of opinion polls by the online publication RealClearPolitics.com showed President Obama in Michigan with a lead of 3.8 points, 47.4 percent to 43.6 percent.
During warm-up remarks, speakers exhorted the crowd to work to win Michigan's 16 electoral votes for Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan.
"It's been 20 years since we voted for a Republican President. This is the year we deliver Michigan," Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R., Monroe) said, after reciting a long list of state offices that are held by Republicans, including the governor's office and the Legislature.
George H.W. Bush in 1988 was the last Republican who won a majority of Michigan's electoral votes.
"Oakland County is the pathway to the presidency and success in the state of Michigan," Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said prior to the candidates taking the stage.
Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan were making stops in Michigan and Ohio before Monday when the long primary season officially comes to an end with the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
On Saturday, the Republican duo, who dub themselves "America's Comeback Team," are set to make their first appearance together in Ohio at a rally in Powell, Delaware County, starting about 9 a.m.
Republican National Committee officials have decided to speed up the roll call of the states. The early roll call allows Mr. Romney to claim the GOP nomination earlier than has been done at previous conventions.
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