Mocking the chants of "four more years" heard at Obama rallies, the candidate joked that it should be "10 more days." This was quickly picked up by the crowd and was chanted repeatedly throughout the night. Romney is in a dead heat in the polls with President Obama and has been focusing on a more moderate stance. While it seems we're seeing a "gentler" Mitt, he was still hyper-critical of the Obama White House, especially in terms of economic policy.
"You know the president likes to say how tough things were that he inherited. That he inherited a tough economy, and it was a tough economy. But he also doesn't mention that he inherited the greatest country in the history of the Earth … his problems aren't so much that he inherited a tough economy but that the things he did made it harder for the economy to kick in gear and put people back to work."
Romney closed the speech with a series of stories about the struggles and courage of particular Americans, and how they inspire him. He also threw out "clear eyes, full hearts," a reference to the television show Friday Night Lights, despite the fact that the creator of the show is vehemently against Romney's use of the phrase.
Also present at the event were Florida GOP Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Connie Mack, the latter running in a hotly contested Senate race against established Sen. Bill Nelson. Mack used his platform to bash his Democratic opponent.
"Sen. Nelson was the deciding vote for Obamacare, I voted against Obamacare. Sen. Nelson voted for higher taxes two hundred and seventy times, I voted for lower taxes. So the choice is clear, Sen. Nelson voted for more government, more taxes, more regulation and less freedom." Mack said. "When Mitt Romney is president he’s going to need another Republican senator from Florida that he can count on."
Florida's other U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, was slated to address the rally as well, but was forced to cancel due to the hospitalization of his daughter who got in a golf car accident in South Florida.
The GOP event caused controversy in Pasco County, some believing it showed that the school board supports the candidate. Both Land O’ Lakes students and teachers protested outside of the event waving anti-Romney signs and riling up supporters.
Robert Marsh is a history and anthropology teacher at Land O’ Lakes High and said he was there in protest of "the whole thing," not just the fact that a rally was being held at his school, but also Republican education ideas. Marsh believes that the Republican touting of charter schools is damaging to both students and teachers and that it provides little accountability of what is actually being taught.
"They're hell bent on privatizing us. Really all that's doing is shifting money from directly from teachers and educators to the corporate profit people on the other end who are making money from this."
Also present outside the event was Students Against Romney, a group of teens that was founded in advance of the event. The founder of the group, Zach Aryconn, is a senior at Land O’ Lakes.
Aryconn formed the club last Tuesday in an attempt to show that not everyone in the area supported Romney.
"When I first heard Romney was coming, I knew he was going to invoke students in his speech, he was going to say 'We need to lower the national debt for the young people, thank you Land O' Lakes for welcoming me.' I wanted to represent my community and break the illusion of complete agreement with him," Aryconn said.
Aryconn is against Romney’s economic policies, cutbacks and the harm they can do to students.
"Our government should ask what it can do for it’s citizens, rather than what it can't afford not to do."
While there were voices of dissent, the overwhelming majority of those present were staunch supporters of the campaign and Republican politicians in general.
Penny Heid, a retired school teacher from Odessa, said her support for Mitt and her opposition to the current administration are what brought her out. She thinks Romney is the "hope and change" that’s necessary for the country. Heid listed her grievances with the way the country is heading, especially the recent "deception" regarding the Libyan embassy attack, and her fear that Obamacare will damage her family's health.
"Anything that we do is going to be better than where we were ... my fiancé is on the liver transplant list through the veterans, are they going to say he's too old to get a liver (due to) the whole Obamacare thing?"