Romney Returns To The Campaign Trail In Florida

Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail Wednesday, in a state that has some experience with damaging storms: He made three stops across the state of Florida.

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If there is any political effect from a Republican governor touring his state with a Democratic president, it may simply be this: three entire days have passed in which politicians finally failed to turn a major national issue into a full-blown depressing partisan fight. As the two men did their jobs, of course, the political debate did continue about disasters and everything else - as you'd understand. It is election time. Republican Mitt Romney resumed campaigning yesterday in Florida. Here's NPR's Ari Shapiro.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: In Tampa yesterday morning, huge screens hung over the stage urging people to donate - not to the Romney campaign but to the Red Cross. Romney began each of his three stump speeches yesterday asking people in Florida to think of their neighbors up north.

MITT ROMNEY: We love all of our fellow citizens. We come together in times like this and we want to make sure that they have a speedy and quick recovery from their financial and in many cases personal loss.

SHAPIRO: Floridians know what it's like to lose everything in a hurricane, but the diehard Romney supporters here worry that all of the focus on this storm will hurt their candidate at the polls. Nurse practitioner Nancy Klibbinoff wishes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would be a little less zealous in his praise for President Obama.

NANCY KLIBBINOFF: You know, I'm really glad that Obama's helping in New Jersey, but I mean it's sufficient just to say thank you for your help. Christie is a little effusive, but that's him.

SHAPIRO: Romney kept his message relentlessly sunny yesterday. Even when he talked about changing course, the message came wrapped in a blanket of unity and bipartisanship.

ROMNEY: I will bring real change and real reform in a presidency that brings us together.

SHAPIRO: Romney did not attack President Obama all day long. He talked about the number of people who are unemployed and on food stamps without every compromising his hopeful tone.

ROMNEY: I could not be in this race if I were not an optimist. I believe in the future of this country. I know we have huge challenges, but I'm not frightened by them. I'm invigorated by the challenge.

SHAPIRO: Campaign aide Kevin Madden says this was a conscious decision to hold fire.

KEVIN MADDEN: One of the reasons we're making sure that we're striking a positive tone today is that there are some folks that are still dealing with the remnants of the storm.

SHAPIRO: But Romney's introductory speakers did not stay so friendly.

REPRESENTATIVE ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: (Spanish spoken) Romney, Romney, Romney, Romney...

SHAPIRO: At the University of Miami, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen chanted enough already in Spanish. Other speakers attacked the president ferociously on everything from the deficit to Libya. When Romney took the stage, the partisanship was gone.

ROMNEY: You young people I know are a little concerned as you look around and see how few jobs there are and you hear how many people talking about how hard it is to make ends meet. But let me tell you, the future's bright.

SHAPIRO: That's a message 24-year-old Jeremy Wide-Akin needs to hear right now. He's looking for work in business administration and taking on jobs where he can find them.

JEREMY WIDE-AKIN: It seems like more and more people are going hungry. My dad's lost his house. My mom's taken like a little job, went back to school. And times are hard for us.

SHAPIRO: So how do you make ends meet?

WIDE-AKIN: I live with my friend at the foot of his bed.

SHAPIRO: Romney's final rally of the day was in Jacksonville. Former Governor Jeb Bush joined him, as he did at all of the stops yesterday.

JEB BUSH: President Obama was dealt a tough hand. We were told that - we hear this every day almost, if you watch TV.

SHAPIRO: Jeb Bush rolled his eyes, saying sarcastically: Of course it's my brother's fault for everything that goes on.

BUSH: It's almost as though the dog ate my homework is the reason why we're going through tough times.

SHAPIRO: Romney finally took the stage to huge cheers.

ROMNEY: You know, with energy like that, I think we're going to win Florida, don't you?

SHAPIRO: In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Romney campaign political director Rich Beeson confidently predicted that the Republican will win Florida - but double digits, he said. With five days until the election, most averages of polls here have Romney ahead by one point. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Jacksonville, Florida.

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