By Suzanne Smalley
Mike Freese, a 59-year-old St. Petersburg resident and Romney supporter who is trying to start a movement he calls Red Necks for Romney, had already gotten two posters with the slogan signed by Romney at events over the past few days. Imagine his disappointment when Romney's advance staff stopped him from bringing a third handmade Red Necks for Romney sign into their election night event in St. Petersburg's grand Mirror Lake Lyceum, an event hall here. Freese said that while Romney has chuckled at his message each time he's autographed one of the signs, last night the staff told him only official Romney manufactured signs were allowed. How very Romney.
Truth be told, the Romney folks could have used a few more signs last night. The hall at Mirror Lake was too big for the crowd of just a couple hundred, leaving about a quarter of the seats in the balcony overlooking where Romney gave his bittersweet concession speech empty. The bar was deserted all night; bartenders said there was plenty of booze left over downstairs that never made it up to the party space. One of the few people drinking, in fact, was Romney senior adviser Ron Kaufman, who nursed a beer as the governor spoke nostalgically for a United States that he sounded like he was eulogizing.
Last night, Romney sounded off message for the first time all campaign. He stumbled over words as he delivered his speech. His tone was wistful and even sad at times. It seemed to be dawning on Romney that his chances of winning are increasingly unlikely. "I remember when I was growing up I always knew that America was the greatest nation on Earth," he said. "First nation to the moon, our cars and movies and technology were the envy of the entire world and freedom and opportunity was just like the air – it was everywhere I went. I believed there was nothing I couldn't do and I knew there was nothing that America couldn't do because we led the world….What kind of nation will we leave our children and our grandchildren?" The implicit message was clear: If John McCain is elected, instead of Romney, we won't be leaving them much. After he finished speaking, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" blasted through the ballroom. It was hard to believe that Romney still buys the lyrics.
Read Suzanne's Romney story here.