JACKSON, Mich. — Jo Ankney hoisted up her sign, adorned with a map of a red-colored Michigan with the words “The Mitten for the Mitt” into the air repeatedly at an outdoor rally here Monday night, the last stop on the Michigan Republican Party’s “Believe in Michigan — Jobs First” bus tour.
Braving temperatures below 40 degrees outside the GOP’s campaign office for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, she was there not only to back Romney’s candidacy but to champion his vision for the country. Ankney said she wanted voters to know that what worked for the state could work for the nation, a prominent theme of Monday night’s Romney rally.
In their last plea to Michigan voters on Election Day Eve, in a state that now seems less certain of a victory for President Barack Obama, Republican officials here reined in their criticisms of Obama and his failure to stimulate the economy.
Instead, they urged Michigan voters to look to the state’s turnaround under Republican Gov. Rick Snyder as a model for the change to expect under a possible Romney presidential administration.
Rounding out a list of speakers that included Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus, Snyder — who has presided over what he claims to be a “reinvention” of the state through a method of “relentless positive action” — said Romney’s election would amount to a continuation of the state’s economic recovery.
“We’re on the path to a major comeback,” Snyder told the crowd of about 150 people. “Now is not the time to stop. Tomorrow decides the choice, are we going to act or are we going backwards? And we’re going ahead.”
Bill Schuette, the state’s Republican Attorney General, said that the successes of Snyder should continue to be reflected at the national level through the election of Romney.
“In Michigan, we’ve turned it around — we have an outstanding governor, and an outstanding lieutenant governor. And if you think about the qualities that Rick Snyder brought to Michigan, they’re the same qualities that Mitt Romney will bring to America.”
The rally, which lasted about 45 minutes, comes as polls in the state show a narrowing gap between Obama, who has long held a lead statewide, and Romney, who was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., while his father George Romney served as governor from 1963 to 1969.
As the candidates swung through the roster of critical states in the election’s dying hours, surrogates for both candidates have canvassed the state, and both campaigns have elevated their rhetoric.
Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who preceded Snyder as the second-to-last speaker, said Michigan voters would prove analysts wrong who have predicted a safe win in the state for Obama.
“I just can’t wait for 8 o’clock tomorrow to roll around, and then 9 o’clock to come and 10 o’clock to come and all of a sudden they’re not calling Michigan yet,” Calley said. “They’re all looking at Ohio, while we are winning the presidency of the United States.”
At the rally, the Republican speakers, again portrayed the election as a choice between two distinct visions for the country, following a trend ever since both parties held their nominating conventions earlier this fall.
Before U.S. Senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra criticized Obama for his handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, George Romney, a nephew of the Republican presidential nominee, told the audience Mitt Romney would fix the economic woes he said Obama’s policies have only worsened.
George Romney recalled an instance at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, which Mitt Romney ran, when he directed traffic when a backlog of cars threatened to prevent people from attending some of the events.
He said the affair illustrates that Mitt Romney has a knack for stepping up through adversity and seizing the moment.
At the rally here in Jackson, and a stop in Ann Arbor attended by two of Mitt Romney’s sons, Matt and Josh Romney, an hour earlier, members of the University’s chapter of the College Republicans said they thought this was Romney’s moment, and that the candidate’s strength in Michigan would boost him to a national victory.
LSA senior Matt Jones, state chair of Students for Romney, said Priebus’s appearance in Michigan, as opposed to other contested states like Pennsylvania, shows that the state will be closer than originally projected.
“We feel that Michigan’s in play, we really do. I know that a lot of people are counting out the state, but … everyone is acknowledging that Republicans are far more energized to vote than the Democrats are,” Jones said in an interview after the bus stop in Jackson. “We think Michigan is absolutely in play, and we think that if Michigan goes red, then the whole national election will probably go our way.”
Members of the College Republicans at the Ann Arbor stop were equally confident about Romney’s prospects.
LSA senior Brian Koziara, a senior adviser to the group, said after the event that the group will continue to make last-minute get out the vote efforts, including making calls during the duration of the evening at the Washtenaw County office.
“The work that they’ve been doing to elect Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as president and vice president and elect Republicans up and down the ticket is just momentous and we’re really looking forward to a victory tomorrow night,” Koziara said.
While Snyder congratulated voters on their work to elect Romney over the past 18 months of the campaign, he urged voters to work up until the closing of the polls to ensure Romney’s election.
“We need to go out of here not just saying this is a rally, but this was a rally that there’s still tomorrow,” Snyder said.
Managing News Editor Bethany Biron contributed reporting from Ann Arbor.