It's All Politics
3:45 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

With Polka Band And Pie, Romney Wraps Up Small-Town Tour In Michigan

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 2:00 pm

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up a five-day, six-state tour in Michigan on Tuesday.

Each of the states he visited was won by President Obama in the 2008 election. Each is also shaping up as a potential battleground this year.

In Michigan, the state where Romney was born, he avoided big cities and stayed in places friendly to the GOP. As he traveled east to west across central Michigan by bus, there were some pockets of protesters, but mostly at a distance.

Romney started the day with a rally in Frankenmuth, a replica Bavarian village, where a live polka band played patriotic tunes. At the outdoor rally, Romney's speech was overwhelmingly about how Obama's policies have failed.

"Put aside the rhetoric. He's an eloquent speaker, but listen to the words and then go out and test them. Go talk to small businesspeople who do the hiring and ask: 'Did Obamacare make it easier for you to hire people?' " Romney said, as some in the crowd responded, "No."

Speaking about the federal budget, Romney said, "I think it's simply wrong for my generation to spend massively and have these young kids here, with the Detroit Tiger hats on here in the front row, have them know that they're going to get stuck with massive debts."

Michigan being Romney's home state, the crowds know him better than they do elsewhere. And they are more likely to be enthusiastic, like Tom Kennedy, 68, who owns an excavation business.

"I'm a supporter of Mitt Romney," Kennedy says. "I think he's honest, I think he's sincere, and his business background is what we need to run this country."

But nearby, retail consultant Randy Janowicz, 51, is not yet sold. He says he's an independent who voted for Obama four years ago. This year, he says, he's up in the air.

Janowicz says Romney needs to talk more about what he'll do rather than what's wrong with the president.

"Everybody's for reducing taxes. I'm for reducing taxes," Janowicz says. When asked about the deficit, he says: "The devil's in the details. And if you're going to slay that devil, you've got to say which part of his pitchfork you're going to slice off."

Janowicz left the event frustrated, though still undecided.

The sentiment at many Romney rallies is more anti-Obama than pro-Romney. In Frankenmuth, that's something Kennedy says he's noticed, too.

He wistfully recalls the excitement he felt back in 1980 when he saw Ronald Reagan campaign in Michigan.

"Ah, my goodness! There was static electricity everywhere. ... He had that personality, and he was candid," Kennedy says.

Romney "needs to start lighting fires," he says.

After the Frankenmuth event, Kennedy said he thought Romney was getting better — more fiery.

The bus tour itself has been far from a blockbuster. Crowds have been small to moderate.

Romney seems to be using each stop to hone his attacks and his humor. That may be what this entire tour has been about: an early summer excursion through states where the candidate will have to be at his best come fall.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Mitt Romney campaigned in Michigan today, wrapping up a 5-day tour of six states; states that President Obama won in 2008. This year, each may become a battleground. Today in Michigan, where Romney was born, his bus avoided big cities and visited places friendly to the GOP.

NPR's Don Gonyea was on that bus.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Romney rode east to west across central Michigan today. There were some pockets of protestors but mostly at a distance. He started the day with a rally in Frankenmuth, a replica Bavarian village where a live polka band played patriotic tunes.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLKA MUSIC)

GONYEA: At the outdoor rally, Romney's speech was overwhelmingly about how President Obama's policies have failed.

MITT ROMNEY: Put aside the rhetoric - he's an eloquent speaker - but listen to the words and then go out and test them. Go talk to small business people who do the hiring and ask, did ObamaCare make it easier for you to hire people?

CROWD: No.

ROMNEY: Yeah, they...

GONYEA: And there was this on the federal budget.

ROMNEY: It's simply wrong for my generation to spend massively and have these young kids here - with the Detroit Tigers' hats on here in the front row - have them know that they're going to get stuck with massive debts.

GONYEA: This being Romney's home state, the crowds know him better then they do elsewhere. And they're more likely to be enthusiastic, like 68-year-old Tom Kennedy, who owns an excavation business.

So, tell me why you're here.

TOM KENNEDY: I'm a supporter of Mitt Romney. I think he's honest. I think he's sincere. And his business background is what we need to run this country.

GONYEA: But standing nearby, 51-year-old retail consultant Randy Janiwicz is not yet sold on Romney. He says he's an independent who voted for President Obama four years ago. This year, he says he's up in the air. He says Romney needs to talk more about what he'll do rather than what's wrong with the president.

RANDY JANIWICZ: Everybody is for reducing taxes. I'm for reducing taxes.

GONYEA: The deficit?

JANIWICZ: The deficit, but the devil is in the details. And if you're going to slay that devil, you've got to say which part of his pitchfork you're going to slice off.

GONYEA: Janiwicz left the event frustrated though still undecided. The sentiment at many Romney rallies is more anti-Obama than pro-Romney. In Frankenmuth, that's something Tom Kennedy says he's noticed too. He wistfully recalls the excitement he felt back in 1980 when he saw Ronald Reagan campaign in Michigan.

KENNEDY: Oh, my goodness. There was static electricity everywhere. He just - he had that personality and he was candid.

GONYEA: And you're not quite feeling that, Tom?

KENNEDY: No, not right at the moment. And that's what I'm saying is that he needs to start lighting fires.

GONYEA: After the Frankenmuth event, he said he thought Romney was getting better - more fiery.

The bus tour itself has been far from a blockbuster. Crowds have been small to moderate. Romney seems to be using each stop to hone his attacks and his humor. That may be what this entire tour has been about - an early summer excursion through states where the candidate will have to be at his best come the fall.

Don Gonyea, NRP News, on the Romney campaign bus in Michigan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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