Romney begins final push in Michigan

January 11, 2008 6:20:06 PM PST
Despite embracing Michigan as the heart of his bid to revive his campaign, Republican Mitt Romney was greeted by anemic crowds Friday as he began his final push for votes in the crucial primary. No more than 150 people were on hand for his appearance at Macomb Community College's Center for Alternative Fuels, in a space set up for an audience twice that size. Romney delivered an unusually short, 13-minute address, breaking with recent practice and taking no questions from his audience.

Later, in Lansing, the audience was crowded into a conference room at the Small Business Association of Michigan. Romney spoke 20 minutes and took two questions - one of which was a statement thanking him for coming.

In each location, he tugged incessantly at a variety of heart strings as he pleaded for support in his effort to rebound from second-place finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary - both of which he worked hard to win.

"My Mom and Dad are buried here," Romney told his audience in Warren, recalling his father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, and his mother, Lenore, a 1970 U.S. Senate candidate in the state.

Fresh from Thursday's debate in South Carolina, Romney assailed his top rival in Michigan, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for stating that some of the jobs lost in Michigan will not be recovered.

Singling out McCain, Romney told the audience: "I'm not willing to accept defeat like that."

He added: "I'd like to say, 'What have you done, given the awareness you have of the one-state recession going on in this great state, which, when I was growing up, was the envy of the nation, and the powerhouse economically of the world. What have you done? What did they do when they were in the Senate and the House for 27 years? What action did you take?"'

Later, in Lansing, Romney touched on another home-state issue: more stringent federal automobile gas efficiency standards. Calling them "anvils" on carmakers, he said, "When that hurts the domestic manufacturer and helps the foreign manufacturers, that's not good for Michigan."

Afterward, he walked through the Statehouse, pausing at the spot where his father once lay in state and then at George Romney's portrait on a mezzanine above. Romney laughed as he recalled a summer job: forging his father's signature on notary public certificates.

Romney's local appeal paid off Friday with two newspaper endorsements.

"Mr. Romney's campaign has been dogged at times by his shifting stands," wrote The Grand Rapids Press. "But on the issue that matters most to Michigan, Mr. Romney's message resonates. In Grand Rapids this week, he said, `Michigan's one-state recession will come to an end if I'm president."'

The Oakland Press wrote: "If elected, he would be the country's only Michigan-born president. His interest in Michigan has been strong, probably stronger than any other GOP candidate."

Romney quickly included excerpts from both endorsements in a new TV commercial he will begin airing Saturday in Michigan. One of the closing images is of him as a young boy with his father.

During a round of appearances on the morning network talk shows, Romney was peppered with questions about whether he would remain in the race if he lost Michigan on Tuesday. This week he discontinued his TV commercials in South Carolina, which votes Jan. 19, and Florida, which votes Jan. 29, and aides said he plans to reevaluate his strategy after Michigan.

"I'm planning on picking up a gold in Michigan. If I do that, I'll have a strong position for South Carolina and will be up heavy with ads here, also in Florida and Nevada. If I get another second in Michigan, we'll have to re-evaluate which states we go to next.

But this is the battle for the support of 50 states," he said on CNN's "American Morning."