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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Before a Big Crowd in Ohio, Romney Glides on Debate\'s Lift


SIDNEY, Ohio - “I'm overwhelmed by the number of people here. There are even people out there, that's another county over there,” Mitt Romney said as he surveyed a sea of supporters at the county fairgrounds here in western Ohio on Wednesday.

As he wrapped up a second day of all-in effort in this critical battleground state, Mr. Romney continued to rally large crowds, the biggest of his campaign, and to glide on the lift of his debate performance last week. Every reference to the debate drew cheers. The Romney campaign said the throng numbered 9,500, citing the Secret Service.

“This is bigger than the fair was,” said Louie Pennycuff, 64. “After the debate, people woke up.”

Earlier i n the day when Mr. Romney visited a bakery restaurant, throngs lined the streets of Delaware, Ohio, for his motorcade as if for a Fourth of July parade.

Mr. Romney, who all year has allowed Democrats to define him as a rich son of privilege who wants to benefit his own kind but lacks empathy for ordinary people, seems to have broken free of that image. Certainly the crowds who come to see him are not of the plutocratic class.

He released a new television advertisement on Wednesday using a clip of the presidential debate in which he asserted, “Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300.”

His stump speech these days is less about small businesses whose owners “did built that,” than about conveying empathy for working-class Americans with economic anxieties. He introduced unlikely and surprising new characters to his speech: he offered praise for “a single mom who's trying to raise a kid or t wo or three,” and “a dad who's taking on multiple jobs.”

At an appearance earlier in the day in Mount Vernon, he stood with the chief executive of a factory, Karen Buchwald Wright, but perhaps the most memorable thing he said was not about her business but that she and Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, “are both breast cancer survivors.” He wore a breast cancer awareness pin.

The Obama campaign responded to Mr. Romney's new ad, “Helping the Middle Class,” by revisiting the analysis by independent tax experts that the tax plan Mr. Romney has proposed, including a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut without adding to the deficit, would mean increased taxes for the middle class.

“Here's what the real Mitt Romney's plan would mean for middle class families: a $2,000 tax increase for those with kids to pay for $250,000 tax cuts for multimillionaires - he just won't be straight with voters about it,” said Danny Kanner, an Obama campaign spokesm an.

Many of Mr. Romney's talking points have a populist ring, though they are less populist on closer inspection. Attacking Mr. Obama, he said, “He wants to raise the tax on savings,” a reference to the president's proposal to increase taxes on investment income, even though it is mostly the rich who receive income from dividends and capital gains.

The president wants to “put in place a death tax which will make it more difficult for people to pass farms on,” Mr. Romney said at a lectern with a sign, “Farmers for Mitt.” He did not mention that Mr. Obama's proposal includes a $3.5 million exemption. The Congressional Budget Office has said that only a handful of farms a year nationally would owe any estate taxes.

The most striking aspect of the more empathetic Mr. Romney appearing on the stump is a series of reminiscences of people whose lives were tragically cut short. On Wednesday, however, he dropped one account introduced the day before, abou t having met a former Navy SEAL killed in the attack on the American outpost in Libya, after the man's mother objected.

Barbara Doherty, the mother of Glen A. Doherty, who was killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, told WHDH-TV in Boston: “I don't trust Romney. He shouldn't make my son's death part of his political agenda. It's wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.”

Mr. Romney did not mention Mr. Doherty at his evening rally. Instead, he told a story about a Boy Scout troop that convinced NASA to include its American flag in a Space Shuttle mission, only to watch the vehicle, Challenger, explode “before their eyes” on television. The flag miraculously was found intact. Mr. Romney described standing beside it at a scout ceremony. “I looked over at that flag and I pulled it out and it was like electricity was running through my arms,” he said.

To him, it represented the spirit of Americans sacrificing â €œfor something bigger than themselves.”