WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan delivered remarks on Friday at something of a mini-Republican National Convention in West Chester, Ohio, where they fired up volunteers and prepared for an 11-state campaign climax.
"Ohio, you're the lynchpin, you're the battleground of battlegrounds," Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, told the crowd.
"We're almost home," Romney said later, a line used at rallies earlier in the day. "One final push will get us there. We have known many long days and short nights and now we are so very, very close."
The rally was a kickoff for a massive get-out-the-vote effort from the campaign in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The rally had 30,000 people in attendance, according to a fire chief, while a police officer told reporters there were 18,000 attendees. Either way, the crowd size at the rally was staggering. (Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller posted a panorama of the event here, and HuffPost's Sabrina Siddiqui posted a picture of crowd here.)
Romney and Ryan also brought backup: their families and more than 40 endorsers, at least 15 of whom spoke before Romney and Ryan took the stage. On a press release announcing the rally, the campaign listed five current or former governors, seven current or former senators, three current or former congressmen, two former cabinet members, a former mayor. Three athletes, including Olympian Scott Hamilton and professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, were in attendance as well.
The early speakers, most wearing matching red campaign fleece jackets, spent much of their time denigrating President Barack Obama rather than praising Romney. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) accused the president of mismanaging the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama cannot work across the aisle. And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, in one of the most scathing speeches of the night, accused the president of having no record to run on, trying to make the country more socialist, and harming the economy.
"No wonder he offers the most vacuous, meaningless slogan for his campaign. What's his slogan: Forward. Forward to what," Jindal said. "I've got to give credit to this president. You're going 80 miles per hour into a brick wall. Who would vote for 'Forward?'" he said later.
Former Rep. Artur Davis -- an Alabama Democrat-turned-Republican -- mocked Obama for saying in 2008 he would work to stop the rising of the oceans, a reference to climate change. Romney joked about the line at the Republican National Convention, in a clip that has begun to re-circulate this week after Hurricane Sandy's East Coast devastation.
"Remember 'the rise of the oceans would begin to slow, the planet would begin to heal?'" Davis asked, loosely quoting Obama's 2008 line. "Now, I don't know about the oceans, I'll ask [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and Al Gore about that."
Ryan and Romney each took a moment to reference the storm, although in a more solemn way. Both urged their supporters, as they have at events before, to donate to the Red Cross and keep those affected in their thoughts.
They each largely stuck to stump speeches, mixing criticism of Obama and promises of change from their ticket. Neither mentioned the attacks in Benghazi, as many others did, or claims about the auto bailout that have embroiled the campaign over the last week.
Romney did touch on one current controversy: Obama's use of the word "revenge" in calling for voters to support him. "Don't boo. Vote," the president said during a Friday rally in Springfield, Ohio. "Voting is the best revenge."
Romney's response was perhaps his most crowd-pleasing of the night, causing a roar of "U-S-A."
"He asked his supporters to vote for revenge -- revenge," he said. "Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country."
Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting from West Chester, Ohio.