By Ed Tibbetts, Quad-City Times
Mitt Romney began his last full day of campaigning before the Iowa caucuses with a rally Monday at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, urging people here to get out and support him but ignoring his rivals, instead targeting President Barack Obama.
“These have been a tough three years,” Romney said, “but these years have been a detour, not our destiny.”
A couple hundred people showed up for the early morning rally, the first of four stops on a busy day of campaigning for the former Massachusetts governor, who was accompanied by his wife, three sons and a brother and sister-in-law.
An upbeat Romney noted Scott County was good to him four years ago, and most of his day will be in the eastern part of the state, an area of strength in 2008. He’ll make stops in Dubuque, Marion and Clive, as well as Davenport.
With the caucuses only hours away, the number of people who are undecided or leaning is likely dwindling as activists make up their minds.
Aaron Sartor, a 25-year-old from Bettendorf, said that he’d listened to the other candidates but Romney’s experience was important to him.
A slate of GOP rivals have emphasized their records on social issues, but Sartor said his interests tilt more toward other concerns. “I don’t feel they’re as important as the economy, the budget,” he said, adding that Romney “can build a coalition of people.”
Ann Schmieder, a retiree, said Romney’s long marriage and family life attracted her. His personal life, she said, is a demonstratin of his stability.
Romney also was accompanied by Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican who had at one time considered his own bid for the presidency.
Thune said gas prices, the debt and food stamp rolls had increased under the Obama administration.
He urged Iowans to use “their minds and their hearts” when going to their caucus, saying Romney presents the best chance to beat the president this fall.
Democrats were waiting for Romney at the rally. Outside, a man who had worked at an Indiana company acquired by Bain Capital in the 1990s, demonstrated with a handful of others.
Randy Johnson, who lives now in Pittsburgh, said Bain, where Romney was chief executive, closed the plant he worked at after buying American Pad and Paper, throwing people out of work and making millions of dollars. Johnson, who has been a critic of Romney’s in previous elections, said that the former Massachusetts governor has no business management experience. “He’s only worked at trying to make profits for folks that already had money,” he said.
Romney has responded to criticism of his record at Bain by saying that some of the companies in which it was involved, like Staples, succeed while others did not.
A spokeswoman, Amanda Henneberg, said Monday this shows the president knows he will lose to Romney in a general election and is trying to destroy him.
“Next November, voters will hold President Obama accountable for his abysmal record, no matter what distractions he tries to create,” she said.
The early morning rally was one of three candidate appearances in the Quad-Cities today.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has a 1 p.m. rally scheduled for the SteepleGate Inn in Davenport. And this afternoon, Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, will visit his campaign headquarters, then hold an event at the Hotel Blackhawk at 8 p.m.