Chesterfield County Welcomes Mitt Romney
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Oct 15, 2012, 12:26
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was among the leaders present to welcome former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to the Mobility Supercenter in Chesterfield County on Friday morning.
With less than a month left to go before the Nov. 6 election, both president Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney have been targeting Virginia, the swing state many believe will be a critical part of the winner’s success come election day.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney was in Chesterfield on Monday, speaking to an enthusiastic crowd in the parking lot of the Mobility Supercenter about the challenges the country faces and his plan to fix those challenges. He said the audience would play a role in that process.
“Thanks to you, we’re going to win in November,” he said at the conclusion of his speech, delivered in a county that has historically provided some of the largest margins of Republican votes in the Commonwealth. “Virginia’s going to get me the White House and we’re taking back America!”
Introduced by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Romney wasted no time in describing the problems America faces now, including high unemployment rates that have left 23 million Americans out of work.
“This is not just something that is a statistic,” he said. “These are real families. These are people with a real life that are concerned about their future and that’s why Paul Ryan and I care about each and every American that’s out of work and we’re going to do everything in our power to get Americans back to work again.”
Romney said that raising taxes to support the job creating measures Obama has implemented in the past, such as the stimulus package, is not the way to create jobs.
“As some people say he wants to pick winners and losers,” Romney said. “I think he just wants to pick losers, from what I can tell, and of course, he wants to raise taxes. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who thinks you create more jobs by raising taxes on people.”
He said that Obama’s plan has been tried and does not lead to success.
“It’s a status quo plan and I know where it leads,” he said. “It leads to high unemployment, no wage growth and, of course, to fiscal calamity down the road for our nation.”
Romney’s own plan to cut individual income tax rates has come under fire as being potentially impossible to implement without losing federal revenue of favoring high income individuals.
In his speech, Romney also criticized Obamacare, saying that the law would lead to higher unemployment and increased healthcare costs. He said a man he had talked to inside the Mobility Supercenter had begged him to get rid of the policy and cited a survey by the Chamber of Commerce that indicated 75 percent of small businesses would be less likely to hire new employees with the new healthcare laws in effect.
In contrast to what he described as the failures of the last four years, including the record numbers of people receiving food stamps and record numbers of people living in poverty since the Census Bureau started tracked that statistic 52 years ago, he presented his five-point plan for the country.
The plan includes measures to achieve energy independence, refine trade practices to the advantage of the United States, improve job training, cut the deficit and champion small businesses.
Romney’s comments, as well as those of introductory speakers Congressman Randy Forbes, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Governor Bob McDonnell, all focused heavily on the military. The Department of Defense and the military are important parts of the economy in the state and in the Tri-Cities, with the economic impact of an expanded Fort Lee coming in at about $2.4 billion a year, or about a seventh of the region’s economy.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson The campaign stop proved a popular event for families, with many parents bringing their children to see the democratic process first hand and to learn about the issues that are important in the current election season.
Romney spoke to that demographic on Friday, asking for a show of hands that revealed a large number of audience members were veterans or current service members. Romney, Forbes, Cuccinelli and McDonnell all took aim at the $487 Billion worth of defense cuts Obama has proposed and decried the additional $510 Billion in across the board cuts included in the Budget Control Act, voted for by both parties in Congress as a condition for raising the debt ceiling last summer.
“I can’t understand the president, who’s Commander in Chief, cutting our commitment to our military,” Romney said. “This is a time for us to have a strong military, not to weaken it. America’s military must be so strong, no one would ever thing of testing it.”
While Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said that the Pentagon has a plan to incorporate one round of cuts, he has said a second set could be devastating.
“I know that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will turn that around,” Forbes said, in his warm-up speech built around the theme that “a new day is coming to America.”
After describing the difficulties facing the country, Romney said that change was possible.
“With all those challenges, some people get a little discouraged,” Romney said. “I’m optimistic. I’ve seen the American people facing tough times. We’re a people who lives for something bigger than ourselves.”
He related a story of a Boy Scout troop that acquired a special American flag with gold tassels that flew over the state capitol in Colorado and the national capitol in Washington. NASA agreed to take it to space on the Challenger, which tragically exploded immediately after launch, killing all seven astronauts aboard. The flag was found amid the debris, in perfect condition. Romney said he found himself sitting next to that flag while working with the scouts and remembered the feeling it gave him.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
“I reached over and I grabbed that flag and I held it our and it was as if electricity was running through my arm,” he said, noting it brought to mind the men and women whose work has made the nation great.
“We’re a nation of people who give ourselves to something bigger than ourselves,” he reiterated. “Our family, our community, our faith, our country. It’s what makes America America, which gives us the vitality to overcome the challenges we have.”
He said that the greatest generation made America a nation that held up a torch for the world.
“It’s not America’s duty to hold up that torch,” he said. “It’s America’s honor to hold that torch.”
He said it was time to a new generation to take the torch.
“Now it’s our turn,” he said. “We’ve got to hold onto that torch and lift it for the world.”
The crowd reacted positively to the speech, which many found inspiring and “moving.”
That was the word Dave Mittiga, who drove from Fredericksburg to see Romney, used to describe the candidate’s message.
“We believe very much in what Gov. Romney has to say and that we really need to turn this country around and bring it back to where it should be,” he said.
He said he was drawn to Romney’s family values, something he had already seen in one of Romney’s sons.
“We met his son last week, Josh, and it, again, it really brings forth the family values the Governor has, and that his children and wife have.”
Mittiga also liked more concrete things about Romney’s speech.
“I think the five point plan he has to create jobs, to move the country forward are all important,” he said.
Many attendees brought their children as a way to introduce them to the political process.
Wendy Rogers’ nine-year-old son Raiden was excited to be at his first political rally, to see the man he hopes to see elected the next President of the United States.
“He found out I was coming today and he asked to go, so that made me really proud,” Rogers said. “I’m glad I can bring him into the democratic process at such a young age.”
Romney’s speech described what she would like to see happen in the country.
“I think he had a lot of enthusiasm,” she said. “He sounded positive, he sounded like exactly where we want to go.”
Katie Barr and Kristin Kauffman had come all the way from Charlottesville to see Romney. Each woman was accompanied by her five children, who formed an all child team holding up poster board letters reading “Kids 4 Mitt.”
“We believe in Mitt Romney,” Barr said, describing why she had made the trip from Charlottesville with her children. “We believe that he cares about our kids. This election is about their future and the future of this country and the debt that we potentially might leave them. I believe he’s a decent man who’s an example, both in who he is and what he believes in. So that’s why we’re here, to tell him our kids are grateful. That we’re grateful, but it’s our kids who are the most.”
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
The two mothers agreed that it was also a learning experience for their children.
“We wanted to teach the kids about what this process is about, and talk to them,” Kauffman said. “It’s a good opportunity to talk to them about the issues.”
It was also a learning experience for Prince George High School seniors Kristen Scwhalm and Korrina Smith, writers for the award winning high school newspaper “The Royal News.” They joined reporters from Fox News, CNN and other international media outlets on the platform to take pictures and record quotes.
“You get to go places you don’t usually get to go if you’re not involved with journalism,” Smith said. “You get to get the inside view of things.”
Schwalm added, “It’s definitely exciting. It’s a good experience and it’s really fun and rewarding.”
Prince George High School teacher Chris Waugaman, who serves as faculty advisor for “The Royal News” said that staffer Nathan Britt had been meticulously monitoring political events, alerting the team to nearby appearances. The newspaper staff was on hand for Obama’s speech at Rolls Royce last year and Paul Ryan’s visit to the Richmond Airport in August. Waugaman said his students could learn from the event and from watching professional journalists at work.
“They can learn so much just watching what other people are doing in the midst of working,” he said. “...When we come to these events, they don’t become star struck because they know they have a job to do.”
The rally also functioned as an event encouraging people to vote, not just in the presidential race, but also in the races for seats om the House of Representatives and Senate.
“I’m asking you to do everything you can these last 25 days, what you did for me and Bill [Bolling, Lt. Gov.] and Ken [Cuccinelli, Attorney General], what you’re going to do for Randy Forbes and Eric Cantor and George Allen,” McDonnell said. “I want you to give it 110 percent for the next President of the United States because we need a change in Washington.”
The contest for Virginia’s 13 electoral votes is expected to be close. Obama has been in Willimsburg, preparing for Tuesday night’s debate with Romney and meeting with supporters, while the Romney-Ryan Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express Tour Bus also made a stop in the Virginia city.