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Friday, August 31, 2012

One More Rally Before Ryan and Romney Leave Florida


LAKELAND, Fla. - With his-and-his jets in the background now wrapped with campaign slogans and logos, Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan waved goodbye to Florida on Friday morning, repeating favorite lines from their convention speeches while seeking to mobilize the 2,000 supporters who turned out to help carry this largest, most crucial of battleground states.

“The convention was a wonderful and magnificent opportunity for us to share our message,'' Mr. Romney said. “Now we're going to need you to get out there and get your friends to vote.''

He added, “You've proved it before, Florida can be a very close election.''

Originally planning to campaign here and in Virginia with Mr. Ryan on Friday, Mr. Romney announced that he would detour to Louisiana to inspect storm damage.

“Last night you got to know me a little more,'' he said, standing atop a stage and speaking to the enthusiastic crowd in a hangar. “I was embarrassed from time to time with the nice things said.''

Speaking first, Mr. Ryan seemed to slip into the traditional vice-presidential role of the ticket's more barbed aggressor, aiming attacks at President Obama with more edge than the smiles he flashed at the convention.

He repeated one of his most effective zingers, that college graduates in their 20s shouldn't have to return home jobless to their childhood bedrooms and look up at fading Obama posters.

“President Obama made a whole bunch of promises when he ran for president,” he said. “Now we see a laundry list of broken promises.”

“The record of contrast couldn't be more stark,'' he said, comparing Mr. Romney's fo ur years as Massachusetts governor with Mr. Obama's “failed leadership.'' He mentioned the decline in the state unemployment rate under Mr. Romney, without including that the state ranked 47th in job creation over Mr. Romney's four years in office. He assailed the downgrade of the United States credit rating under Mr. Obama “for the first time in our history,'' but did not mention that the downgrade was partly because of Congressional gridlock over raising the debt ceiling driven by House Republicans' demands for spending cuts.

The visit to Lakeland, midway between Tampa and Orlando, was no coincidence. It is hotly contested ground in the presidential race because of an explosively growing population of retirees, working-class residents and Hispanics. The housing crisis devastated the region, with the 2010 census showing that 15 percent of Lakeland households were vacant.

Adam Putnam, the state agriculture commissioner and a chairman of Mr. Romney's state cam paign, called Lakeland “the fulcrum of the I-4 corridor'' in introducing the nominees. “The eyes of the world and the hopes of Americans are on us in central Florida, and we will deliver,'' he said.

The future of Medicare, of course, will be a major issue, and Democrats are hitting the Romney-Ryan ticket hard for proposals that will “end Medicare as we know it.” Polls show a strong majority of seniors oppose the idea of transforming Medicare into an optional voucherlike plan, as Mr. Ryan proposes.

But Paul Senet, the national Republican committeeman from Florida, who sat in the stands at the rally, said he thought Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan were winning the messaging war on Medicare.

“We've got too much good communication going with seniors,'' he said. “They are enlightened and informed. There's respect for somebody finally being honest with them and admitting we've got to get this fixed.''