The Lakeland Rally


The Republican convention ended on Thursday evening, and right away the next morning, both Romney and Ryan showed up just down the street from me. For whatever reason, the Romney plane was at the Lakeland Regional Airport; they chose that as their departure place rather than the Tampa International Airport. That means they had to drive from Tampa to Lakeland, about a 45-minute jaunt by bus. Since they were going to be this close, I figured I should travel that mile or so over to the airport to see them off. The rally was much larger than I anticipated.

Romney’s plane already was there as a patriotic backdrop. I didn’t get there as early as some, so my view wasn’t the greatest. I did see and hear our congressman Dennis Ross, though, who is a principled man who stands by his convictions.

As is the case with most of these presidential rallies, nothing starts on time, so even though the official starting time was 9:30, the principals didn’t arrive until at least 10:15. You can see the kind of view I had in this picture:

In case you can’t tell, let me confirm that is Ryan speaking in the distance. Binoculars would have been nice. They did try to help out, though, with a screen off to the left:

Someone else who was there had a much better vantage point, so I owe the following two pictures to him:

Photo Courtesy of Michael Barrett

Photo Courtesy of Michael Barrett

Why a stop in Lakeland? We are the center of the Florida political universe. Northern Florida is resoundingly Republican. The southeast, anchored by Miami, Palm Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale, is predominantly Democrat, with the exception of the Cuban enclave. Central Florida, where I am, is the mixed area, and will determine the direction Florida goes in this election. Lakeland is right between Tampa and Orlando, so we see the candidates quite often. I’m sure this won’t be the last opportunity before November.

I watched a lot of the Republican convention and was impressed with how women and minorities have become a key contingent within the party. While many speeches smack of boilerplate in both parties, there were some addresses that transcended the ordinary. Anytime Marco Rubio speaks, it’s from the heart. Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech was nothing short of stupendous. Romney’s was just what it needed to be, as he introduced himself to the country as someone who took risks and had to work his way up on his own. He didn’t come across as an emotionless robot at all; I’m convinced that many undecided voters who were watching him had to come away from this speech impressed with the fact that he is very human, a true success story, and someone who just might be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The comments today at the rally were nothing new, but recycled from those convention speeches. That’s fine. There hardly was time to come up with anything new. What I did sense in the crowd was anticipation and excitement. They think Barack Obama is in his final weeks as president.

As he should be.