One who drives through Bay County, Florida, is confronted with Romney-Ryan signs along the road everywhere. Anti-Obama signs, such as ‘Obama isn’t working’ and ‘defeat Obama’, are also very popular over here. This is an average country in the pan handle, a piece of Florida with an overall Republican base. It is in this area that congressman and Veep candidate Paul Ryan holds a rally at the Marina of shrimp fishing town Panama City.
Foreigners aren’t seen much over here, so our presence did not go unnoticed. After parking at the Marina, we are approached by a local senior citizen who starts to talk about how bad Obama is for America. ‘I just don’t trust him,’ she says. A few yards ahead a few Republican volunteers greet us. ‘You come all the way from Amsterdam to report about Ryan? That is great,’ another woman said. She welcomed all press. Next to her is a long line with hundreds of Republicans; who are dying to see Paul Ryan. They wear T-shirts with ‘I love the USA’ and ‘God bless Romney and America’ on it. After the usual security checks we walk into the press section where we have to wait for hours to see the candidate.
But why does the Romney campaign organize an event such as this one in a heavily Republican area? This has to do with demographics in the swing state of Florida. Recent polls show a dead heat between Romney and Obama. The one who gets the highest turn out among its own base could win Florida, an important state with 29 electoral votes. As in the years 2000 and 2004 this year it will come down to small numbers and margins. By organizing a rally in Bay County, the Romney campaign team hopes to get a higher turn out in the pan handle, the area where the most Floridian Republicans live. On the other hand Obama has the same strategy: former president Bill Clinton visited southern Florida on Friday and today the President himself will go to Hollywood, a city near Miami, to encourage Democratic voters.
After hours of waiting in the sun and listening to country singers and local Republican politicians, the big moment is finally here: Paul Ryan walks on stage. His stump speech comes down to the following: America doesn’t need four more years of Obama. Ryan says that Obama broke all this promises, increased the national deficit and wants to turn the US into a socialistic country with a strong government. ‘But it is God who makes the people, not government,’ says Ryan. The crowd goes wild. He also has another message for these Republicans: vote early and encourage fellow Republicans to get out and vote on Tuesday. ‘We need all votes in Florida to win this, and we have three more days,’ Ryan tells them. After his speech, he waves and walks away to a bus that is waiting for him. It will bring him to the local airport, where his plane awaits him to fly him to a rally in another swing state.