Republican Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, speak to an overflow crowd at George… (Justin Sullivan, Getty…)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the final sprint to the end of the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney has often alluded to the fictitious football team in the television show "Friday Night Lights," the underdog crew who huddled before each big game to cheer, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."
Jetting to five final rallies in four states Monday, the slogan — which he's modified to "America can't lose" — seemed like a challenge to his campaign. Though the polls are tight in many swing states and in a dead heat nationally, Romney is still facing difficult odds in getting to the 270 electoral votes he would need to win the White House.
He did not acknowledge that fact, however, on a day that began at a misty airport hangar rally in Sanford, Fla. — a suburb of Orlando at the fulcrum of the populous Interstate 4 corridor where his Florida fortunes may well turn. The "clear eyes, full hearts" slogan was illuminated in blue and white on a jumbo screen, and Romney promised that Tuesday would bring a major change for the country.
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"Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow. Tomorrow, we begin a better tomorrow," he said, standing in charcoal slacks and sleeves rolled to the elbow, punching the air emphatically with his index finger. "This nation is going to begin to change for the better tomorrow. Your work is making a difference. The people of the world are watching. The people of America are watching. We can begin a better tomorrow, tomorrow, and with the help of the people in Florida, that's exactly what's going to happen."
Many of Romney's top aides traveled with him Monday, milling around on the tarmac and watching his events in a jovial mood. Unlike the sense of doom that infused Republican nominee John McCain's campaign four years ago — when it was evident the candidate and his aides knew they would lose — Romney's aides seemed to be in a state of suspense. Hoping for a late break, the campaign added two stops Tuesday in Ohio and Pennsylvania. At each event the candidate urged supporters to get out and talk to their neighbors, particularly those with Obama yard signs.
"I also want to thank many of you in this crowd that have been out there working on the campaign," Romney said in Lynchburg, Va., the first of two stops in the state. "Making calls from the victory centers, and by putting up a yard sign in your neighbor's yard," he said, chuckling. "And maybe convincing a co-worker to vote for Paul Ryan and me. And now, let's make sure that we get everyone we know out to vote on Tuesday. Every single voter — get 'em out!"
A few hours later at a rally in Fairfax, Va., several thousand supporters waited for him in an overflow area on the grass outside the Patriot Center of George Mason University. Inside the basketball arena, they beat thundersticks with deafening cheers.
Ann Romney introduced her husband in Fairfax by noting the proximity to the White House. "Are we going to be neighbors soon?" she said. "It's so exciting to have walked into a room like this and get greeted like that. But the thing you don't know: There's as many of you outside as inside right now. And that's the momentum we have been feeling. It's not just in Virginia. It's all across this country."
Her husband told the crowd that he was "overwhelmed" — a word he almost never uses.
"I am looking around to see if we have the Beatles here or something to have brought you, but it looks like you came just for the campaign and I appreciate it," he said. "Your voices and your energy and your passion are being heard all over the nation."
But the most dramatic moment was Romney's final rally of the night, where a crowd waited with signs printed with "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose."
To the strains of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," Mitt and Ann Romney arrived at an enormous rally inside a Cleveland airport hangar — arriving on their campaign plane, which was towed into the hangar to the surprise of the crowd.
Ann Romney was in tears after walking hand in hand with her husband to the stage.
"One more day. One more day. One more day," the crowd shouted — signaling their hope for the end of an Obama White House.
"I just can't tell you how exciting this is, and how moving this is," Romney said. "To see our country come together with a great hope and aspiration for one more day, one more day that leads to greatness."