Last Updated:July 22 @ 06:07 pm

As Election Day nears Romney crowds are surging

By Steve Peoples

SIDNEY, Ohio (AP) - The crowds tell the story. As Election Day nears, Mitt Romney is drawing large and excited throngs.

Look to dusty Iowa cornfields, rain-soaked Virginia parks, the muddy fields of the Shelby County Fairgrounds, where a crowd of 9,500 - almost half of this western Ohio town - gathered among the barns and stables on a frigid October evening this week to glimpse the Republican presidential contender.

"Where else would we want to be?" said one of the shivering faithful, Judy Cartwright, a 71-year-old nurse from Sidney. "I want to see the next president of the United States."

Romney's debate performance against President Barack Obama last week - and his energetic appearances following it up - have fueled a rise in enthusiasm on the campaign trail. Whether or not it will translate into votes, polls do suggest that Republicans are fired up. It's a welcome development for the Republican businessman, who is hardly a natural politician and has long struggled to match Obama's ability to inspire excitement.

In Virginia, for example, Republican leaning counties appear to be getting the fastest start on absentee voting ahead of Election Day. State Board of Elections data analyzed by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit and nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics, shows that of the 25 localities where absentee voting is busiest, 21 voted Republican in the 2008 presidential race. And of the 25 localities where absentee balloting is the slowest so far, 16 supported Obama.

Romney seems to be feeding off the energy pumping through his now-sprawling crowds, even as aides downplay the newfound momentum among the GOP base.

"I'm overwhelmed by the number of people here," he exulted while scanning the sea of supporters packed beyond the fairgrounds fences here. "There are even people out there - that's another county over there."

Romney's growing crowds come as new polls suggest he has erased Obama's advantage in voter support nationally. Races have tightened in a handful of battleground states, too.

The president's challenge on the campaign trail this year has been to match the high excitement bar he set in 2008. For Romney, it has been to exceed low expectations.

But recent polling suggests the "enthusiasm gap," long thought to lean toward Obama, has leveled off.

The Pew Research Center poll this week found that 68 percent of registered voters who back Obama support him strongly. Some 67 percent of Romney voters are strongly behind him. That's the first time Pew's poll has found the two candidates even on this measure.

And a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted after the Oct. 3 debate showed the GOP nominee drawing "strongly favorable" reviews from 62 percent of Republicans, the highest level of deeply positive views that poll has found during the campaign. Overall, Romney's favorability among Republicans stands at 87 percent. Obama draws favorable views from 93 percent of Democrats, including 68 percent who hold strongly favorable views.

Obama can still turn out big crowds. As the election draws close, the president is appearing in college settings where he can depend on the enthusiasm of younger supporters. Within the past nine days, he has spoken before 30,000 people at the University of Wisconsin, 15,000 at Ohio State University and 9,200 at the University of Miami.

But in 2008, to note one striking example, he drew an astonishing 100,000 people to a single rally in Denver in late October. And this year's campaign audiences, like Obama himself, seem to vary in their enthusiasm. The students who filled a field at Ohio State on Tuesday were supportive but hardly buzzing when Obama implored them to vote.

One recent night, at a concert hall in San Francisco, Obama showed he can still whip 6,000 supporters into building cheers.

"I still believe in you. I'm asking you to keep believing in me," he declared. "I'm asking for your vote. I'm asking you to knock on doors. I'm asking you to make phone calls. And if you do, we will win this election. We'll finish what we started. And we'll remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth."

The level of enthusiasm matters as each side tries to get as many of its supporters to the polls as possible. A big Republican enthusiasm advantage two years ago helped the GOP capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives in addition to making huge gains in statehouses across the nation.

For much of this year, Romney, the sometimes-stiff former businessman, has had a hard time generating the same electricity as Obama.

Indeed, most of the GOP's most passionate voters did not back Romney during the extended Republican primary season. His campaign typically favors made-for-TV invitation-only events where the emphasis is imagery - Navy ships, manufacturing plants, farm equipment - rather than crowd size. Audiences did increase as Romney began campaigning alongside running mate Paul Ryan, a favorite of the tea party, but he has generally struggled to get people excited on his own.

Until this week.

He drew an estimated 12,000 people to a central Florida rally last weekend, 1,200 to an Iowa town of just 1,000, and several hundred more to Newport News, Va., under heavy October rain.

"People wonder why it is I'm so confident we're going to win. I'm confident because I see you here on a day like this. This is unbelievable," Romney said, his wet hair stuck to the side of his face.

Soaked supporters standing in muddy puddles cheered as he delivered an abridged version of his standard campaign speech. Some wore ponchos, while many others stood shivering and drenched, hands in pockets.

At the Shelby County Fairgrounds, Judy Cartwright was wearing four layers to try to keep warm as the cold wind pushed temperatures into the 30s Wednesday night. It was Shelby's first glimpse of a presidential candidate since she met Harry Truman as an elementary school student more than six decades ago.

"At least it's not snowing," she said with a smile. "This is a chance of a lifetime."

---

AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller and Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington and Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.

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14 Comments

  1. middlegroundComment by middleground
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    Great!

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    Rating: 4.8/5 (13 votes cast)
    • dshevlinComment by dshevlin
      October 13, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

      Ditto that middleground! This article neglects to remind you of the fact that obummer can NO longer draw a large crowd of supporters. Hello! The DNC Convention a month ago. Remember they had to suddenly move to a “smaller” stadium due to bad weather. Original space sat 75,000 people and only less then 20,000 tickets were sold. They couldn’t even fill a a bus they are so pathetic. Romney is kicking obummer’s a$$ and it is going to be a historical event when the red tidal wave engulfs this country on Nov. 6th. Gonna be a GREAT day. Really looking forward to it. There is not one house on my street without a Romney/Ryan yard sign, around the block, across town, they are every where. GO Romney/Ryan! We got your back and we thank you for saving our lives. God Bless this great country the United States of America. ONE Nation Under God indivisible, with LIBERTY and JUSTICE for All. FREEDOM FOREVER!

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  2. billwvComment by billwv
    October 13, 2012 @ 11:14 am

    Keep up the good work GOP and we’ll see a new POTUS in November.

    Go Romney / Ryan.

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    Rating: 4.9/5 (18 votes cast)
  3. prairelivingComment by praireliving
    October 13, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    Let’s keep praying and making sure that everyone we know who wants Obama out of office goes to the polls and votes. The Dems are going to be voting early and often (as we see from the help of the people in TX) and we need to be sure everyone on the side of Romney/Ryan casts their ONE vote.

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    Rating: 5.0/5 (24 votes cast)
  4. jimnjoyComment by jimnjoy
    October 13, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

    “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” I hope he’s elected but it will serve as only a short respite from the continuing march toward one-world government foretold in the Bible. Pray that the Lord would have mercy on our sinful nation for a while longer so that more people can repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior. Amen.

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    Rating: 4.7/5 (13 votes cast)
  5. ccfontenComment by ccfonten
    October 13, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

    And with the rise in his poll numbers, the oblamo team is in full panic mode! Can’t wait until Nov 6!

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  6. Nancy WilsonComment by Nancy Wilson
    October 13, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    Romney/Ryan 2012

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    Rating: 5.0/5 (11 votes cast)
  7. noveldogComment by noveldog
    October 13, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    Romney needs to hire a team of comical ladies of all colors and sizes to point out you can’t shop if you are broke. With high priced fuel…. everything else is also high …..and you have little money to do that fun thing ladies so love to do…shop til you drop!

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  8. thomasjeffersonComment by thomasjefferson
    October 13, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

    Those of you who await the write in for Ron Paul must remember, if you do then you will ensure his place in history as the next Ross Perot.

    You do not now nor will you ever have enough votes to defeat obama. We either band together to defeat obama or we are doomed to four more years of a muslim dictatorship.

    The choice is yours

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    Rating: 5.0/5 (12 votes cast)
  9. vevaComment by veva
    October 13, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

    Visit more universities, like Obama, and military installations, Mitt. Get creative. Visit Ohio often and support Josh Mandel for Senator!

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  10. Eagle OneComment by Eagle One
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    It’s come down to people who have any pride in themselves and their country will vote Romney/Ryan.
    Those that don’t will vote 0bummer and *** clown.

    Oh, did that sound biased? I certainly hope so.
    That pretty much sums it up.

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  11. ingodwetrustComment by ingodwetrust
    October 14, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

    Romney will win Big Time

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  12. gileyComment by giley
    October 14, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

    Romney must be getting some very wise advise as to how to continue his wining edge in the next debate. Nothing can be taken for granted because Obama is now desperate to repair his lousy performance in the first debate.

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  13. billwvComment by billwv
    October 14, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

    The one thing that I live to see is on November 7 and the Headline that declares:

    Romney / Ryan WIN IN A LANDSLIDE.

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    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

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