Romney Hopes To Swing Va. Back To GOP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned in Virginia Saturday. 2008 was the first time in more than 40 years that Virginia chose a Democrat for president. As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, Romney wants to make sure this state does not grant President Obama an encore.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Now that both the Republicans and Democrats have wrapped up their political conventions, President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have been ricocheting from one swing state to another. The candidates are having a real-time conversation across thousands of miles with just under two months until the presidential election. Mitt Romney says President Obama doesn't understand how to create jobs. The president accuses Mr. Romney of treating tax cuts as a cure-all. NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with President Obama in Florida, and we'll hear from him in a moment. First, here's NPR's Ari Shapiro with the Romney campaign in Virginia.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: 2008 was the first time in more than 40 years that Virginia chose a Democrat for president. Mitt Romney wants to make sure this state does not grant President Obama an encore. To do that, he'll need people like former Obama voter Dawn Sweeney. She watched both political conventions beginning to end and just made up her mind to vote for Romney.

DAWN SWEENEY: My husband lost his job in May and my daughter's in college. And we're trying not to do student loans. So, it's really hard.

SHAPIRO: And do you think Romney can help turn the job market around?

SWEENEY: I hope so. I don't know what else, you know?

SHAPIRO: She sounds more resigned than enthusiastic. But a vote is a vote, and Romney is happy to have hers.

MITT ROMNEY: Thanks to you for braving the warm weather today to give me such a welcome. And thanks to our veterans. I see a number of them in the audience here today. Thank you for your service.

SHAPIRO: Romney spoke at a hangar surrounded by antique military jets. A lot of his stump speech was new, tailored to Virginia Beach's big military community.

ROMNEY: But to preserve liberty, we must have a commitment not just to more ships and more aircraft but also in my view to more members of our armed forces. I will not cut our military. I will maintain our military commitment.

SHAPIRO: And many of the new elements in this speech were tied to the Pledge of Allegiance. Romney led the crowd in reciting the pledge together, then he zinged Democrats with this line:

ROMNEY: That pledge says under God. I will not take God out of the name of our platform.

SHAPIRO: Last week, Democrats scrambled to put God back into their party platform after initially dropping the reference. Romney went on.

ROMNEY: I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart. We're a nation...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ROMNEY: ...bestowed by God.

SHAPIRO: He also mentioned Friday's weak unemployment report as evidence that President Obama's not cut out for the job.

ROMNEY: He doesn't have a plan, he doesn't have any ideas, and we got to make sure he doesn't have any more days in the White House after January.

SHAPIRO: Retiree Elizabeth Ward is desperate to see Romney win.

ELIZABETH WARD: A lot of people just voted because Obama said there would be a change. They were so stupid. They didn't ask what kind of a change.

SHAPIRO: When she thinks about the people who are suffering in this economy, it makes her furious.

WARD: And I mean, there's women that's living in cars with little kids out there. I mean, come on. Take care of people here in the United States, not every foreign country we've got.

SHAPIRO: After the rally, Romney attended a NASCAR race in Richmond - one contest where he doesn't have to wait two months to learn who the winner is. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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