LIVONIA – A slate of statewide Republican rallies received a boost Thursday morning when former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited the state for a rally a little more than one month before Election Day.

Romney, a Michigan native who lost the state by 450,000 votes in the 2012 presidential election, spoke at Laurel Manor in Livonia in support of multiple GOP candidates, namely U.S. senatorial candidate Terri Lynn Land (R) and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R), who is running for reelection. Both have been within single-digit margins in recent polls with their opponents.

Before Thursday’s engagement, Romney visited Colorado, which, like Michigan, features several tight statewide races.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who is running to maintain his seat in another major statewide election, was absent from the rally. He hosted a campaign town hall Thursday evening in Sterling Heights.

“As many of you know, this could not be a more critical year for Michigan,” Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak told the crowd to kick off the event. “Michigan Republicans have been working diligently the past four years to put Michigan back on the road to recovery.”

Romney spoke to the crowd about his Michigan roots, and said he enjoyed visiting the state because of the connections many of his family members have with it, including his father, a former governor who served between 1963 and 1969.

“I have family here, and I feel like you’re family,” Romney said. “I appreciate the support of people in this great state.”

He said he supports Land because of the contrast she represents to the policies of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.), particularly those pertaining to the Keystone XL pipeline, the Affordable Care Act, amnesty for undocumented immigrants and Common Core education standards.

The Obama administration has delayed a vote on Keystone XL, a controversial oil pipeline approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in June, which would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. The ACA, the signature legislative achievement of the administration, has been a similarly salient policy for the GOP, especially House Republicans, who have voted to repeal it more than 50 times. The Common Core, a set of federal mandates for state K-12 education, has also received bipartisan scrutiny.

“This is a person who will make a difference in Washington because her voice will take us in a very different direction,” Romney said of Land.

Analysts view Michigan as a key state that the GOP could flip in their quest to gain control of the Senate, following the retirement of incumbent Sen. Carl Levin (D–Mich.). However, the Senate race is now viewed as leaning in favor of Rep. Gary Peters (D–Mich.), the Democratic senatorial candidate who has maintained a consistent edge over Land during the last month of the race, according to recent polls.

Land, who took the stage after Romney spoke, echoed several of the same issues, repeating a pledge to vote against the ACA and also pledging to oppose amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

She pointed to several other policy areas as additional focuses, including fixing Michigan’s roads, and criticized both the Democratic Party and Peters for their stances on those issues.

“Washington is broken, and now it’s trying to break Michigan, and we need a senator who’s going to put Michigan first,” Land said. “We’ve been through some tough times here, but we’re making a comeback.”

Land also called on the state to provide more options for skilled workers in the form of grants, namely for those who choose to participate in vocational programs instead of attending four-year colleges.

“The federal government gives loans for four-year colleges, but they leave behind those who don’t attend a university,” she said.

The auto industry bailout in 2008, which state Democrats have criticized Romney and Land for not supporting, largely went unmentioned by both speakers, though a protest by a SuperPAC outside the venue over the issue drew roughly 100 people.

Republican candidates for three of the state’s university governing bodies — Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan — were also in attendance at the rally. Each university’s governing board currently has two open seats.

“We have an opportunity on our campuses to create more of a balance … politically and from a policy standpoint,” Schostak said before introducing the candidates.

The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents currently has six Democrats and two Republicans. Both seats up for reelection this year are currently held by Democrats.

Republican candidate Ron Weiser, a former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, stressed several goals, including reducing tuition and the financial burden on students after graduation. Rob Steele, the other Republican candidate, echoed this call for fiscal responsibility. He also pointed to diversity issues on campus, and suggested that the University could do more in that area by recruiting veterans through the G.I. Bill.

Weiser also touched on some of the negative publicity the University has been receiving recently.

“We have a new president,” he said. “There are some problems. Give him a chance to fix those problems.”

Romney is the second major out-of-state politician to visit the state in recent weeks following a visit last week by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to support Snyder. Michelle Obama is expected to visit the state later in the month in support of Democratic candidates.

Daily Staff Reporter Emma Kerr contributed to this report

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