James Stotter

As we walked towards the metal detectors and scanners, there were the typical hecklers showing why they flunked admission to the closed Facebook group “Are You Smarter Than a Democrat?”

Recently, my wife and I travelled to Chillicothe, Ohio’s first state capitol. We met more than 2,000 people who were total strangers to us. All had one purpose--supporting Mitt Romney.

Chillicothe is in Ross County, in south central Ohio. Though Ross is predominantly Republican, it’s not a shoe-in for the GOP. Occasionally Democrats prevail, and they usually get more than 40% of any vote.

Although Ross is only two counties south of Columbus, Ross is still the northwestern edge of Ohio’s roughly crescent-shaped Appalachian region and that is coal country. Ads for coal are ubiquitous and often associated with AEP. There is no need for American Electric Power to even spell its name. All the region’s residents know, and there appears to be a symbiotic relationship between the people and the company.

So, the four speakers each paid homage to coal in his own way. Coal will be an integral part of their plans for America’s energy independence. Factually speaking, coal is relatively labor-intensive to extract and requires relatively large amounts of environmental treatment. So, all those signs we saw, “COAL=JOBS” does come at a price (see picture of one sign). HOWEVER, while not exactly dilithium crystals, there is enough known coal in the “Lower 48” now to supply our electrical needs farther into the future than when the original Star Trek is set.

Clevelander Josh Mandel warmed up the crowd. Mandel is Ohio Republicans’ rising star, a Marine Corps “hero” of two tours in Iraq, former state legislator, current state treasurer, and challenger to the current U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. During what seemed like a much longer wait than it was, foot-stomping country music, about which I know nothing, was blaring. A local marching band played Ohio State’s famous “Hang On, Sloopy.” Young Republicans led the O-H-I-O gestures and cheers.

After Romney’s bus arrived we heard from Ohio’s other U.S. Senator and former chief trade negotiator for Bush 43, Rob Portman from Cincinnati. Gov. John Kasich also spoke.

Then Romney revved up the crowd. He was the most fired-up and animated we had ever heard him or seen him. He was much more passionate about his approach to economic matters, and about this great country of ours, than ever before. The crowd interrupted a few times shouting “Mitt! Mitt!....” and “USA! USA!....” If Romney can keep up this level of passion—-and that comes from deep within a person rather than outward enthusiasm--his odds should improve immensely.

Fortunately, Biden wasn’t speaking, because the four speeches we heard were together considerably shorter than one of Joe’s speeches, which are usually clocked with a calendar. Romney did say the Obama team had “hit a new low earlier today,” but didn’t dignify their remark with any detail. When we got home we heard about Biden’s “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.” comment. Until then, I’d given up hope of winning my bet that Biden would make the campaign’s dumbest statement. Fortunately this only involves the two for president and the two for VP, not Rep. Akin.

Just as an aside, if as Biden said “...they’re going to put y’all back in chains,” then following Obama’s thinking they couldn’t do it themselves, they’d have to have help. Hmmm. I wonder who that leaves.

Romney did pull out a quote from candidate Obama in 2008. Following the main body of this column is that quote and a link to the entire transcript of Mitt’s comments.

A little more research confirmed that this was not a fluke. On September, 15, 2008, candidate Obama said “If we’re going to ask questions about, you know, who has been promulgating negative ads that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand, I think I win that contest pretty handily.”**

When Mitt finished speaking, he walked the inside of his security perimeter shaking hands and signing autographs. I managed to get close enough to have him sign my wife’s copy of his book No Apology. Even then a man in front of me took the book and handed it to Mitt. This man said he was doing for me what another man had done for him a few minutes before. (See picture of wife’s hand pointing to Mitt’s autograph.)

On the way back to the car, which seemed like half an eternity from the event, we stopped and chatted with a heterosexual couple walking arm-in-arm flaunting their Ohio Tea Party t-shirts. Besides being coal country, this is also Tea Party country. I said “I was at the original Tea Party in Boston.” They laughed and I was gratified when they told me I didn’t look old enough. (See picture of them.)

Coal mining and Appalachia are not associated with the same demographic, as upper middle and higher income classes Romney is supposed to be from and for. Americans in those latter demographics are the ones the Democrats paint as shifting economic burdens to the middle and lower income classes. If that portrayal is accurate, someone needs to explain this kind of energized support Romney enjoys from one of Ohio’s poorest regions. Perhaps it’s because they know Romney is actually for America, the same country that the working class in Chillicothe are proud to be a part of.

Quote from Romney’s speech in Chillicothe, Ohio, Aug.14 (I underlined Obama’s quote read by Romney):

“This is an old game in politics; what’s different this year is that the president is taking things to a new low.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

In 2008, Candidate Obama said, ‘If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.” He said, “if you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.’ And that, he told us, is how, ‘You make a big election about small things.’

That was candidate Obama describing the strategy that is the now the heart of his campaign.”

NOTES: Below is the first full transcript I could find of Romney’s speech in Chillicothe, Ohio, on Aug. 14. Most of this transcript was verified by my wife recording from back in the crowd, though some parts were not clear to her recorder.


** Seen on a few sources. This is from Ed Morrrissey’s blog on 9/15/08, http://hotair.com/archives/2008/09/15/obama-guess-who-wins-the-mudslinging-match/

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.