July 31, 2014

“Eight more days!” says Romney, while first lady says: “Vote early.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney rallied with a big crowd in Davenport this afternoon, while First Lady Michelle Obama headlined campaign rallies in Iowa City and Sioux City.

Romney criticized President Obama on a variety of fronts, from the potential fallout of “ObamaCare” to their competing tax plans.

“His people are going all over the country shouting: ‘Four more years!’” Romney said. “Our slogan is: “Eight more days!” All right?”

The crowd cheered and began chanting, “Eight more days.”

Romney joked: “By the way, we’ll have to come up with a new slogan tomorrow.”

Romney began his 21-minute speech with a plea for Red Cross donations, to help hurricane victims in the days and weeks ahead.

“I was speaking today with the National Weather Service and with folks at FEMA as they’re preparing for the landfall of a very dangerous hurricane,” Romney said. “It’s going to effect a lot of families. It already has and the damage will probably be significant and, of course, a lot of people will be out of power for a long time and so, hopefully, your thoughts and prayers will join with mine and people across the country as you think about those folks that are in harm’s way.”

Romney has cancelled a planned Tuesday evening campaign stop in Des Moines, suspending politicking as Hurricane Sandy worsens. Romney stood behind a lectern that featured a sign that read: Real Change on Day One.

“The president happens to think we’re already on the right track, everything is going fine,” Romney said. “…I don’t think we’re on the right path. I want to take a new path and get America strong again and I will.”

Romney confessed he’s finding it hard to “slow down and fall asleep” at the end of the day because of the “energy” of the campaign. A few moments later, Romney described himself as an “optimist” who is “convinced” Iowa will be in his column on Election Night.

“You guys are used to campaigns. I mean, Iowa is always at the center of things year after year after year and for you, nonetheless, to be out here today and spend some time with me is really something,” Romney said. “…I keep going across the state. Everywhere I go (there are) big crowds, enthusiasm, attention being focused on this campaign and I think it’s because people recognize that this is a big election.”

Romney pledged as president he’d “reach across the aisle” and meet regularly with Democrats, but he also drew cheers from the crowd by repeating his promise to repeal “ObamaCare” — the landmark achievement of the Obama administration.

Erin Seidler, a spokeswoman for Obama’s Iowa campaign, issued a written statement targeting Romney’s remarks about bipartisanship. “The American people shouldn’t trust a word Mitt Romney says when he claims he’d reach across the aisle as president,” Seidler said. “…Over the last six years he’s been running for president, he’s never stood up to the most extreme voices in the Republican Party.”

Romney was in shirtsleeves as he addressed the crowd in Davenport shortly after three o’clock this afternoon.

“This is a big election and this a critical time and I appreciate you coming out and spending a little time with me and with my friends today,” Romney said. Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable publicly endorsed Romney at the rally.

First Lady Michelle Obama rallied with supporters in Iowa City earlier this afternoon. Mrs. Obama focused on get-out-the-vote efforts, including the Iowa law which allows voters to register at the polls on Election Day.

“Here in Iowa if you’re not registered, you don’t have to worry,” she said. “You can tell people if they’re not registered, they can register on the spot when they vote here in the state and that’s a beautiful system ’cause that’s not true in every state.”

Mrs. Obama spoke for 40 minutes, telling the audience her husband was back in D.C. to “cut through red tape” and ensure hurricane victims get the help they need. The first lady told the crowd in Iowa City the country’s economy was headed “in the right direction” and she told supporters of her husband the “progress of the last four years” was at stake in this year’s election. Mrs. Obama has already voted and she urged the crowd to follow her lead.

“The other thing about early voting is you can do it on your own time frame, right?” she said. “Because you wake up on Election Day — babysitter might not show up; maybe you’re sick; car might not start. Life happens, but in the span of eight days, you know, at some point you can make it happen.”

Mrs. Obama also spoke late this afternoon in Sioux City. She will return to her home in Chicago rather than to the White House, as air travel to the east coast has been suspended because of Hurricane Sandy.