MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney returned Monday night to the state where he launched his bid, telling supporters in New Hampshire during his final campaign rally that he needs their votes again.
"It's all your votes and your work right here in New Hampshire that will help me become the next president of the United States," Romney told a thunderous capacity crowd at the Verizon Wireless Arena, which holds about 10,000 people. "We thank you and we ask you to stay in it all the way to the victory tomorrow night."
Romney, who won the New Hampshire primary, assailed President Barack Obama's economic policies amid the recession — "One in six of us is poor," he said — and promised to bring change that he asserted Obama had only talked about.
"Talk is cheap, but a record is real," Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor spoke after Kid Rock stood atop a piano to sing the campaign song "Born Free" as red lasers lit the arena.
The New Hampshire rally was expected to be the Romney campaign's last hurrah, capping a day that was a sprint through Florida, Virginia, Ohio and then New Hampshire. But on Monday afternoon, Romney's team announced a last-minute Election Day push that will take him to Cleveland and Pittsburgh for get-out-the-vote efforts before he returns to Boston to await the outcome.
"Look, we have one job left, and that's to make sure that on Election Day, we make certain that everybody that's qualified to vote gets out to vote," Romney told the thousands gathered inside an airplane hangar in Sanford, Fla., at the first of his five campaign rallies Monday.
Romney and running mate Paul Ryan will both make that last pitch in Cleveland on Tuesday morning. Romney then heads to Pittsburgh in the afternoon.
Ohio is critical battleground that Romney has visited again and again — but one where polls show a race with Obama that's stubbornly close. Romney all but ignored Pennsylvania until the final week of the campaign, as Republicans poured millions onto previously empty airwaves in a bid to expand the map.
The Election Day campaign events mimic Obama, who campaigned in Indiana on Election Day in 2008. He ultimately won the state, which typically backed Republicans for president. A spokeswoman said Obama would not campaign Tuesday, but would remain in Chicago and reach out to swing-state voters through a series of television and radio interviews.
But while Indiana's 11 electoral college votes were a nice addition to Obama's 365-vote Electoral College landslide, Romney has been banking on Ohio to carry him over the finish line in what's been a fluid but close-fought contest. Without Ohio, Romney has to win nearly every other battleground state to defeat Obama. Adding Pennsylvania would change the calculus, but Democrats say they remain confident they'll win a state that's backed their party's presidential candidates since 1988.
"Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow," Romney said in Florida, his voice a bit hoarse as he spoke using a teleprompter to prevent mistakes borne of weariness. By the time he landed in New Hampshire, Romney had covered more than 15,000 miles in four days. Monday's five rallies are the most Romney has held in a single day during the general election campaign.
All told, he's been running for president for nearly six years.
If Romney wins, he would become the nation's 45th president, and spend the fall and winter preparing to move into the White House and take over the executive branch of the government. There would be Cabinet secretaries to select, news conferences to hold, intelligence briefings to attend. The pack of cameras that has surrounded Romney almost daily since he announced would still greet him nearly every morning.
"Forty-five! Forty-five!" chanted several people in the Florida audience.
But if he loses, all the trappings of the campaign — his charter airplane, the entourage of besuited Secret Service agents, the siren-filled motorcades down highways closed just for him — will disappear.
Supporters seem to know they're watching history. On the rope line after his Florida event, a man presented Romney with a bag of pins from his father George Romney's 1968 bid for president.
Romney is already further along; his father lost the Republican nomination, and Richard Nixon went on to be elected president.
The son hopes for a different outcome. "I need your vote," Romney said. "Walk with me. Walk with me together."
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