Romney Draws a Kiss, Vibrant Crowd in Land of Obama’s Pizza-Parlor Hug
Around the State
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney invaded the region where President Obama last month received an infamous hug from a pizza shop owner.
And Romney, drawing toward 13,000 of the well-manicured community of Tradition in western Port St. Lucie on a humid yet darkly overcast day, had his own restaurant moment that was more in character for the former Massachusetts governor.
Picking up meals for his team after the rousing appearance that appears to continue the GOP candidate’s quickly growing momentum from last week’s spirited debate performance in Denver, Romney received a hug and even a kiss from the owner of a growing seafood restaurant.
“I’ll never ever forget it, he’s the future president,” said Roberta Hepburn, owner of Tin Fish in Tradition, where Mitt and Ann Romney picked up the order of 15 salads and 20 grilled fish tacos. “I got to kiss him on the cheek.”
Hepburn, who said she didn’t know Romney was going to stop by the restaurant that sits on a corner of the green where the speech was held until the order was made, also got a hug from Romney. But no one was lifted in the air, a la the well-publicized and since copied embrace Obama received from Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Restaurant shop owner Scott Van Duzer a month earlier.
Romney earlier fired up the crowd by recounting the media and Democrats’ reaction to Obama’s timid debate performance.
"You all had the chance to hear his answers or his non-answers,” Romney said. “Now of course, days later, we are hearing his excuses and next January we're going to see him leave the White House for the last time."
Team Romney said the Port St. Lucie location, which is out of the way from major airports and typically not a hot spot for national politicians other than when fundraising, was selected because it is a bellwether county in a critical swing state.
St. Lucie County leans Democrat. It sits between two hard-core GOP counties, Martin and Indian River.
“Gore carried the county in 2000 and Bush in 2004,” said Tom Brandt, Romney’s communication director for Southern Florida. “It would be a huge statement to carry this county.”
Romney’s appearance drew two state Cabinet members who have been campaign stalwarts, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi, and state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Commenting on the threatening rain clouds, Atwater said “it never rains on freedom.”
U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, who is now seeking Congressional District 18 that includes St. Lucie and Martin counties, drew the next biggest reaction from the crowd, many of whom waited more than four hours on muddy ground and in heat conditions that kept emergency management technicians on their toes all day.
“It’s a race between what is simply called the opportunity society versus the dependency society and what you saw Wednesday night was when the opportunity society takes the stage with the dependency society, the opportunity society wins,” bellowed West, whom people greeted with shouts of “our next secretary of defense.”
“They don’t believe in the free market, they believe in trickle-down government. That is not America.”
With a month until Election Day, polls have swung in Romney’s favor following the Denver debate.
The Rasmussen Report's Presidential Tracking Poll on Sunday put Romney at 49 percent of the national vote, up 2 percentage points on Obama, with the same numbers for Florida.
A WeAskAmerica survey of Florida put Romney at 49 percent to 46 percent for Obama, while a Reuters/Ipsos poll out Friday found that one in five voters drew negative vibes from Obama after the debate, while a third felt more positive about Romney.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.