GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney stopped at the Port of Tampa to talk about trade policy and how President Obama has failed America on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Cargo ships behind him and a crowd of about 100 people before him, the former Massachusetts governor avoided addressing key issues such as immigration, health care and taxes and focused on economy instead.
After running one hour late, he spoke for about 10 minutes before mingling with the crowd while ignoring the media. Then, he headed to downtown for a fundraiser at the Tampa Museum of Art.
“He is the one who can beat Obama,” said retired Navy and South Tampa resident Ginger Boyce Price. “He is for smaller government, less taxes and for the average middle man.”
A fierce supporter, Price said she is weary of the media picking on Romney. They accuse him of flip-flopping and make remarks on his hair that, by the way, she likes.
“I hope that the wind messes it up, but then the media will say Romney had his hair messed up,” said Price.
But not all local supporters who showed up at the Tuesday’s campaign stop feel so strongly about Romney. Some say to prefer him over other GOP candidates because he is the most “presidential” among them.
“On stage, Mitt Romney is the most presidential, so I think that’s what will help him win,” said Lakeland resident and Romney supporter Susan Freebern.
Freebern and her 18-year-old son attended the Presidency 5 conference in Orlando in late September.
“He went in favoring Rick Perry, left liking Herman Cain but will support Mitt Romney,” she said of her son.
“He is the only one who is presidential enough to beat President Obama,” Freebern’s son had said.
Both had perceived the other GOP candidates as being a bit snippy, grumpy, and unfriendly at the three-day debate.
Thonotosassa resident and Vietnam vet Doc Riley also called Romney “very presidential.”
Riley supports him one-hundred percent and strongly agrees with his stance on immigration.
“Just because people have been here for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, if they are not U.S. citizens what gives them the right to have rights as American citizens? They don’t have rights, they are illegal,” he said.
Immigration is an issue close to Riley’s heart. His wife, who was born in the Philippines, had to wait for more than one year before being granted a visa to the United States.
“Go through bureaucracy like everyone else has to do and become a legal U.S. citizen,” Riley said.
Romney’s speech reaffirmed Palm Harbor resident Dixie Eklund’s faith in the candidate.
“He is the only person in the race who has the depth of knowledge on our economy,” she said. “He is a fiscal conservative and he understands what is going to take to get us back on track and get jobs in America.”
What about the other hot-button issues?
“At this point, my only focus is the economy,” Eklund said. “If we don’t have a leader who can lead this country out of this economy, nothing else matters.”
Lakeland resident Etoy Brown also attended the event.
“I wanted to hear from his own mouth what he represents,” she said. “He has strong beliefs and I like that.”
Is she a Romney supporter, though?
“For today, I am,” Brown said.
Romney probably did not expect to win votes from out of state by campaigning in South Tampa.
Sharyn Michali from Pennsylvania was visiting the Florida Aquarium in the Channelside District when she noticed the hustle and bustle and followed media to the Tampa Port Authority building.
A registered Republican, she now leans toward Romney after serendipitously stumbling across the candidate.
“I would vote for him because I’ve seen him today,” Michali said.
What of the speech?
“I couldn’t hear very much of it,” she said.