TOLEDO, Ohio -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney brought his campaign here Wednesday to wrap up a three-day Ohio bus tour aimed at winning over the battleground state, braving rainy skies and even gloomier poll numbers.
While Mr. Romney seemed to click with the crowd in the SeaGate Convention Centre, many of whom stood in the rain for a chance to get inside, the former Massachusetts governor appeared to be slipping in the state overall, according to a newly released poll by Quinnipiac University/ CBS News/New York Times. The poll showed him trailing President Barack Obama, 53 percent to 43 percent.
Mr. Romney told supporters that he would promote small-business expansion, and end the ballooning of the nation's debt, which was shown as a constantly clicking number on a large tote board next to the stage.
"The president just the other day said you can't change Washington from the inside; you can only change it from the outside. Well, we're going to give him that chance on Nov. 6," Mr. Romney said.
Lucas County Republican Party chairman Jon Stainbrook estimated the crowd in the downtown convention center at just more than 4,000. Outside, more than 75 Obama supporters chanted "Outsource Romney" and waved signs as the Republicans' supporters lined up to enter.
The response of Toledo resident Sandy Brady, a Romney supporter, was: "Get a job if you don't have one. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and stop coveting what other people have. You have to earn it yourself."
Mr. Romney attacked Mr. Obama's signature accomplishment, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which its foes and, lately, even the president and his supporters call Obamacare.
"Obamacare is really exhibit No. 1 of the president's political philosophy, and that is that government knows better than people how to run their lives," Mr. Romney said.
He said government has a role in making sure that people who are hurting, disabled or poor get the help they need. "We're a compassionate people," he said. "At the same time, we're going to insist that these people have the opportunity for work if they can carry out work, because we're not going to create a society of dependence on government."
Mr. Romney was gratified by the crowd response, saying, "I love this country; I love Toledo, Ohio. What a welcome, what a sendoff!"
Warming up the crowd, Mr. Stainbrook recalled last year's vote by Ohioans in support of a constitutional amendment to exempt Ohio from the federal health care law, a vote that has since been deemed invalid after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the law.
"Voters in Ohio sent a clear message they do not want Obamacare, but, obviously, Obama doesn't care, so he's got to go," Mr. Stainbrook said. "It's clear this president just won't listen. I know somebody who will listen to the voters of Ohio, and that person is Mitt Romney. We need to make Barack Obama a one-term president."
Two planes circled downtown Toledo's skyline before the event, each pulling banners. One read: "Mitt: the 47% are soldiers, students and seniors." The other said, "Save America: Vote Romney, Dismiss Obama."
Bowling Green State University students Nick Buhrow and Jessica Wright, both 18, came to the rally with different pre-election views.
Mr. Buhrow, of Cleveland, said his mind is made up for Mr. Romney on Nov. 6. "I have always liked the Republican ideas. I came to see Mitt Romney in person," he said.
Ms. Wright was an undecided voter who wanted to hear what Mr. Romney had to say. "I want to know what he wants to do for the country," she said. "I already know what President Obama has to say."
The Toledo rally ended the three-day bus tour of Mr. Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Romney shared a stage in the Columbus suburb of Westerville with Columbus native and golf legend Jack Nicklaus. Mr. Nicklaus said his values of hard work and self-reliance are the same as Mr. Romney's and likened the Obama tenure to an errant golf shot.
"The worst thing you can do on a golf course is to dwell on a bad shot," said Mr. Nicklaus, 72. "We are too late to change recent history, but we can write a better future for ourselves, for our children and for their children."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Westerville resident, also introduced Mr. Romney. "Being governor and trying to come out of a mess is tough, but what I really need to really fix this state is I need Mitt Romney as president of the United States," he said.
In Westerville, Mr. Romney said the national debt had increased from $10 billion to more than $16 billion under Mr. Obama and is likely to reach $20 billion if he wins four more years. "It is crushing. We're on the road to Europe, we're on the road to Greece," he contended. "I will get us off that road."
Spokesman Kevin Madden said Mr. Romney is looking forward to the presidential debates that start next Wednesday. "His strategy is to talk directly to the American public about the issues that they care about. In this particular election, it's the state of the economy," he said.
Mr. Madden refused to predict a debate victor. "What we do know about President Obama is he's one of the greatest political performers of all time," he said. "We know that the stakes are pretty high, and the president has a lot of advantages."
Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tom Troy is a reporter for The Blade. First Published September 27, 2012 4:00 AM