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Mitt Romney draws thousands at Idaho rally

March 01, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets the crowd at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets the crowd at Skyline… (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert )

Reporting from Idaho Falls, Idaho — Drawing enormous crowd has never been Mitt Romney’s forte, but his rally Thursday in Idaho drew more than 2,200 people who showed with squeals and booming cheers that they were among his most ardent fans.

The crowd was a stark contrast to his audience last week in Detroit when he spoke at Ford Field, an NFL stadium that swallowed the relatively small number of people on hand to see Romney.

“What a treat this is. What an extraordinary welcome,” Romney said. “I’m happy to be back. I was just here a couple of weeks ago. I need your help. I need you to go to the caucuses, I need you to vote, make sure I win this thing, and that I become the nominee!”

The line of supporters snaked out the door of the gym at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls. One woman in the crowd held a sign that said, “Mitt is bringing sexy back” – a most unusual placard to see at a Romney rally.  After speaking to a crowd of more than 1,200 in the school’s auxiliary gym, Romney held a second rally in another gym next door.

He stopped briefly in Idaho Falls as he flew across the northwestern United States, starting the day fielding questions from an enthusiastic crowd in Fargo, N.D., and ending the day at a fundraiser in Bellevue, Wash., just outside Seattle. The former Massachusetts governor plans to spend much of the weekend touring Ohio — where he is in a pitched battle with Rick Santorum — with brief trips to Tennessee and Georgia. 

Given the geographic challenges of the Super Tuesday contest next week when 400 delegates will be at stake in 10 states, Romney’s goal Tuesday was to set his mark on Idaho (32 total delegates) and North Dakota (28 delegates), which have a combined 60 delegates up for grabs.

Because the Romney campaign is not running ads in North Dakota and just began advertising in Idaho on Wednesday, Romney tried to reach voters in those two states by doing a series of local interviews in each, talking about local issues including the diversion of the Red River in North Dakota, gas prices and nuclear energy.

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