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Romney Bus Tour Was Paved With Contrasts to Obama

Romney Bus Tour Was Paved With Contrasts to Obama

By Erin McPike - June 20, 2012


TROY, Ohio -- Mitt Romney went to great lengths to contrast himself with President Obama during his just-completed bus tour through six states, most of them in the Rust Belt. And he largely succeeded. But the results are hard to gauge at the moment, considering his five-day trip was bookended by political news that backed him into a corner.

The Republican standard-bearer does not have the bully pulpit that the president has, and he fell victim to that disadvantage at the tour’s outset when the White House announced it would stop deporting a swath of young illegal immigrants. And yet, he turned the tables on Obama by projecting some images that the president no longer can.

He also tried out a trio of vice presidential contenders in Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan -- all of whom campaigned with him along the way -- but their auditions were overshadowed Tuesday by a report that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wasn’t being vetted for VP and the update from Romney himself that indeed he is.

But if those pre- and post-hiccups made waves in Washington, they weren’t particularly noticeable along the bus route, which weaved through states Obama won in 2008, stopping in a series of small towns. Hence the name of the tour: “Every Town Counts.”

And his surrogates noted the implication: President Obama has become so far removed from average American citizens that it’s not surprising he would have uttered these words: “The private sector is doing fine.”

When Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gerlach introduced Romney in Cornwall on Saturday afternoon, he said, "We know President Obama has turned Hollywood upside down and inside out emptying their pockets for money." And when Portman warmed up the crowd for Romney at a pancake breakfast in Brunswick, Ohio, he, too, needled Obama for spending too much time raising money from celebrities.

By contrast, from Stratham, N.H., to Holland, Mich., Romney campaigned in places that aren’t seeing much of President Obama now that he resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Romney has Secret Service protection, too, but he doesn't have the kind of entourage the president does, which allowed him to easily get in and out of the small towns and up close to his smaller crowds.

Of course, his audiences here and in Brunswick and Newark, Ohio, and in each of his stops along the way, weren’t particularly diverse. They were middle-aged and older white suburbanites, as opposed to some of the larger and more eclectic crowds that Obama can attract on college campuses and in urban areas.

On the tour, there was little concern about any of the issues that have dominated talk inside the Beltway for months; Romney spoke of government regulation and health care and the fiscal problems in Europe and got plenty of cheers. He made no news and he took no voter questions over the five days.

And for all of the banter that Romney could be in trouble because of his standing with Hispanic voters, consider that he need not win some states in the West if he were to win more states in the Midwest (with their lower percentages of Latinos). Indeed, one white man in his fifties in Newark, Ohio, who asked not be identified for “business reasons,” said of the president: “This last thing he did the other day with the Mexicans -- I mean, illegal immigrants -- I think it’s unconstitutional.”

The same man said he couldn’t care less who Romney picks as his running mate, “as long as it gets us a win.”

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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