ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: I'm Ari Shapiro with the Romney campaign, which opted for a much smaller event today: a few hundred veterans crowded into a low-ceilinged hall just off the interstate outside Washington, D.C., about a dozen rows of 15 chairs apiece. A sign saying Veterans For Romney hung next to a row of flags. Retiree Tom Whitmore says the small size of this crowd is deceptive.
TOM WHITMORE: I think everybody in this room is going to be an opinion leader in their, you know, sphere of friends and their influence, and so, you know, it's very important that he gets his message out to them.
SHAPIRO: As post commander David Wallace introduced Romney, he thanked the campaign for helping them to pay the rent.
DAVID WALLACE: Every American Legion post needs a little bit of, you know, that extra push to keep our lights on every month. So we really appreciate that.
SHAPIRO: When Romney took the stage, his message focused on issues important to the military and to veterans. He called proposed sequestration cuts, quote, "a gun-to-your-head opportunity."
MITT ROMNEY: Which is if Congress couldn't get the job done properly and the president couldn't lead them, why, they'd make devastating cuts to our military. It's a strange proposal in the first place. It's even stranger that it's being put in place.
SHAPIRO: He said the problems around the world are so great that deep cuts in the military now would be unthinkable and devastating.
ROMNEY: I happen to subscribe to Ronald Reagan's maxim that peace comes through strength. I want to have a military that's so strong no one wants to test it. You see, you want to...
SHAPIRO: Then he pivoted to economic issues. He said the Soviet Union tried to pair a strong military with a weak economy and it collapsed.
ROMNEY: Our economy needs to be reinvigorated, and the president has laid out his plan. It's a continuation of the old plan. We can't afford four more years of the last four years, all right?
SHAPIRO: Douglas Turner is a retired veteran who voted for President Obama four years ago.
DOUGLAS TURNER: I was sick of the wars. I was sick of the Bush business, and I voted for him because I felt here's an alternative guy, has his head screwed on right, is - and is also - we can become post-racial. But we haven't become post-racial.
SHAPIRO: This year, he's not sure how he'll vote, but he's unhappy with the president.
TURNER: My sense is if I don't like the incumbent, I just vote for the other guy. I mean, basically the only way - it's just house cleaning.
SHAPIRO: After Romney finished speaking and the motorcade left, all of the rally attendees were invited to stay at the hall for a buffet lunch of sandwiches. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign.
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