MORRISON, Colo. — Seeking a powerful moment to propel their campaign across the finish line, Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan may have found it at a raucous rally out at Red Rocks on Tuesday night.
By far Romney’s biggest crowd in Colorado to date, the more than 10,000 in attendance stomped their feet, banged thunder sticks emblazoned with the campaign’s logo and broke into impromptu chants of “Romney, Ryan.”
The optics of the event couldn’t have been better for the Republican ticket, with rally goers donning white, yellow and red t-shirts forming the “C” from the Colorado state flag, and the Romney “R” logo projected onto the twin cliffs on opposite sides of the amphitheater.
The energy only two weeks from Election Day was palpable inside Red Rocks, with Colorado Republicans tasting the chance for victory in a state that went for President Obama by nine points in 2008. It was referred to often as the political event of the season, drawing a packed house that forced organizers to turn thousands away.
Firing up the crowd in advance of the main event was a wide array of local politicians and rock stars, from former Congressman Bob Beauprez to Kid Rock.
“Liberation Day is upon us,” declared Beauprez to ecstatic cheers from the crowd.
“American needs a new quarterback,” said Jefferson County Commissioner John Odom.
Also offering their personal endorsements were Congressman Cory Gardner and Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who helped introduce country music star Rodney Atkins.
Atkins and Kid Rock were there to rev the crowd up before Romney and Ryan arrived, with Kid Rock promising he wouldn’t “preach politics,” instead leaving that to “the pros.”
Both Atkins and Kid Rock have been mainstays at Romney rallies across the country, with their songs blaring from campaign speakers during interludes at events.
Arriving on stage shortly after Kid Rock finished his three-song set and an introduction by New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan seemed taken aback by the size and energy permeating the crowd of fired up rally goers.
Clad in shirt and tie, sleeves rolled up, Ryan strode onto stage with his hands in the air, admiring the cheering throngs of Republicans who had gathered to witness one of the last joint events with both members of the presidential ticket.
“Colorado, are you ready to help us win this thing?” asked Ryan to a roar from the rally clearly indicating they were.
Noting his long history of trips to Colorado on family vacations to Pike National Forest and elsewhere to hike, fish, ski, climb and mountain bike, Ryan sought to highlight his local connection to the state, before transitioning to a more traditional stump speech.
Bemoaning what he characterized as a desperate Obama campaign, Ryan brought up then-candidate Obama’s now infamous quote where he said “if you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.”
“Sadly, that is just what he has become,” Ryan added.
Romney hit the same theme during his speech, referring to the Obama campaign as an “incredibly shrinking campaign…about smaller and smaller things.”
It wasn’t all political barbs and red meat for the fired up crowd, though, with Romney recounting a personal story about a scout troop from Monument, Colorado.
Romney had been at a boy scout event where the Monument troop’s American flag was flying. The scout master had told Romney that the flag had been flown above the Capitol and the scouts had also convinced NASA to take the flag aboard the Challenger into space.
When the Challenger disaster occurred, the scouts had assumed their flag was lost in the wreckage, only to find out months later that the flag had survived. Romney said the experience reminded him of the greatness of the American spirit, driven by a quest for knowledge and the astronauts desire to live for something bigger than themselves.
In a nod to Colorado’s electorate, of which a majority votes before Election Day, Romney urged attendees to get their ballots in immediately, so they could focus their time and energy on driving other like-minded citizens to the polls.
A wide array of public polling has the race in Colorado tighter than virtually any other state in America, but with Romney in clear command of the essential last-minute momentum.
Last night’s rally is likely to only help continue that forward progress for Romney.
President Obama will have a chance to stem that tide and drive his own bit of campaign energy with a visit today to Denver.