COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – Newly minted with Secret Service protection, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign arrived in Colorado Springs on Saturday with a head full of steam coming off a large victory in the Florida primary and barreling towards a near certain one in Nevada’s caucuses later that evening.
Surrounded by members of his family and accompanied by South Dakota US Senator John Thune, who considered running for president himself this cycle, Mitt Romney came to Colorado looking to repeat his good fortune of 2008, when he nearly two-thirds of the vote at the caucuses.
Speaking to a crowd of 1000 people in the cavernous confines of Springs Fabrication, a metal plant, Romney displayed a frontrunner’s confidence, focusing his fire on President Obama rather than his fellow Republican contenders.
Foreshadowing the sharper stance Romney took in his Nevada caucus victory speech later Saturday night, Romney lobbed some rhetorical bombs in Obama’s direction.
“We elected this president to lead. He chose to follow. Now it’s time for him to get out of the way.”
The crowd of supporters ate it up.
Romney spent most of his speech hammering the record of the Obama’s administration, hitting the president for the high national unemployment rate and $500 million sunk into the failed and scandal-plagued Fremont, California solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra.
In referencing his own role in helping start Staples, Romney slammed the Department of Energy’s loan to Solyndra as not only crony capitalism, the company is owned by a major Obama donor, but bad business too.
When Romney, while at Bain Capital, helped to start the office supply store he said he invested maybe $5 or $10 million, not the nearly half billion dollars that was lost on the solar panel company when it went under. Romney said he operated out of a simple strip mall office space, comparing that to the costly new factory purchased by Solyndra with taxpayer dollars, which Romney derided as a “Taj Mahal.”
Reports surfaced after Solyndra’s collapse that the factory built robots that whistled Disney songs and spa showers with the government loan.
Absent from Romney’s speech was much focus on his primary opponents, as the former Massachusetts settled back into the role of frontrunner.
After winning the Florida primary handily, and racking up a large win in Nevada’s caucuses, Romney now enters a couple week stretch dominated by states where he performed well in 2008, including Colorado and Michigan.
Here in Colorado, the former Massachusetts Governor possesses the most impressive endorsement roster of all the candidates, a veritable who’s who of Colorado leaders – from business tycoon Phil Anschutz to former Governor Bill Owens.
Local political endorsers of Romney were at the event, including Colorado Springs state Representatives Larry Liston and Mark Waller.
Liston has high hopes for a Romney on Tuesday.
“Governor Romney did very well here four years ago,” said Rep. Larry Liston. “I was a supporter with him then. I think he’ll do equally as well, if not better. I’m excited for his candidacy, and I’m sure he’s going to win here in El Paso County and I’m sure he’s going to win in Colorado.”
As caucuses are notoriously hard to poll with turnout being such a small percent of registered voters, there has been scant publicly available research on voter’s preferences.
A Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling (PPP), released results from its first day of polling in Colorado on Sunday morning showing Romney leading at 40%, with Rick Santorum in second at 26%, Newt Gingrich at 18%, and Ron Paul trailing with 12%.
Despite an expected win by Romney on Tuesday, Republicans are expecting strong turnout across the state.
Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call estimates turnout will be in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 thousand statewide.
El Paso GOP Chairman Eli Bremer predicted a record turnout on Tuesday in his home county, citing the large number of voters pre-registered for the caucus and the excitement generated by visits from the presidential candidates themselves.
“As of yesterday, we’ve got over 5,000 pre-registered. I would assume that’s going to more than double between now and Tuesday,” Bremer said.
“I expect it to be the biggest yet.”
Romney will be back in the state on Monday, with campaign rallies in Grand Junction and Centennial. Republican caucuses begin at 7 pm on Tuesday.