Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Romney wins hearts in Virginia

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Swing-State Girl, Roman from the Black Forest, and Shuster-Who-Is-Suing-the-Federal-Government were up on the seventh floor. There were about 30 other partisans crammed into the boardroom of a rented office five Metro stops from the White House, including a number of Ralph Lauren Polo-type guys and more college-age hotties in sundresses than you might expect to turn out to rave for Willard Mitt Romney.

"Being a Republican is definitely SO cool," one of the college girls was saying as Debate Night in America kicked off on Wednesday at Romney's northern Virginia headquarters. She was standing out in front of the building, behind a folding table laden with anti-Barack Hussein Obama novelties, most memorably an oversized button that said BETTER A MORMON THAN A MORON.

Up on Seven, Shuster-Who-Is-Suing-the-Federal-Government -- he wouldn't tell me why -- had just come in from sculling, which is exactly what one would expect a Mitt Romney supporter to be doing on a summer-like autumn afternoon.

"To Obama and the Socialist-Marxists he represents, you don't matter," Mr. Shuster was sniffing. "He only cares about you as a voting bloc."

"Is there anything that Barack Obama could say tonight that would make you change your mind?" I asked Mr. Shuster, who told me he "used to be an architect," that his given name was Forrest, and that, yes, he was the brother of THE George Shuster who wrote the book entitled Obama's War on Free Speech.

"I would shoot myself before I'd vote for him," the oarsman said.

The boardroom was papered with posters that hollered, wishfully, VIRGINIA BELIEVES. Swing-State Girl, whose name was Julia Bennett-Ward, told me she was a 26-year-old graduate of Georgetown University striving to pay off her student loans, she was working as "a federal government business consultant," and that she was descended from Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams on her Bennett side. She grew up in Florida and now lived in Virginia, two of the three states (Ohio is the other) whose up-for-grabs voters are likely to decide the outcome of the 2012 presidential election on the sixth of November.

Ms. Bennett-Ward had spent the hour before the debate making 45 rapid-fire telephone calls on behalf of the Romney campaign to registered Republicans in northern Virginia, the swingiest quotient of the swingiest state of all. (Mr. Obama narrowly won Virginia in 2008, the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, thanks largely to high minority-group turnout in Arlington, and support in adjacent, resurgent counties that are dependent on government jobs.)

"What do people say when they answer the phone?" I wondered.

"The first time I ever called anyone, they said, 'Mitt Romney can go jump in a lake,' " Swing-State-Girl reported. She said she had been a Romney supporter from the beginning, and she was even more enthusiastic now that he had chosen Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, because "he tended bar, and I tended bar, and I can totally relate."

"I'm a maker, not a taker," said Julia Bennett-Ward.

"Eighty-five per cent of the media is negative about Romney," she went on. "People just keep repeating the media talking points: 'He doesn't care about us. He's a rich guy, he doesn't care.'

"I hear, 'It's dinnertime now. Stop calling at dinnertime!'

"I hear 'He's gonna do what Bush did.'

"I hear, 'My husband's not here -- he's in the army.'

"I hear, 'Are you calling for my husband? My husband died last week.' "

Roman from the Black Forest was wearing a black shirt with DEUTSCHLAND in large letters on the front. He was telling everyone he was spending the fall in Washington as an intern at some think-tank or other and he already had run twice for the Bundestag as a member of the Christian Democrat Union, "which is the conservative party in Germany, but I lost because of the voting lists."

I asked him what he meant by "I lost because of the voting lists."

"Why? Are you a professor of political science?" Roman from the Black Forest replied.

Now the Romney people shut down the phone bank and we all settled in to watch the great debate. Within six minutes, the place was in an uproar. That's when Mitt Romney told Barack Obama, "Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it."

Barack Obama looked like Muhammad Ali did the first time Joe Frazier hit him at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971.

"Who is winning?" I asked Roman from the Black Forest.

"You must not look only at the candidate, you must look at the team BEHIND the candidate," he insisted.

"Forget that political science stuff," I told him. "In this country, we just look at the candidate."

"Oh, then Romney is clearly beating him," the Schwarzwalder said.

Now the people on the seventh floor in Arlington, Va., were clapping and laughing and this was when Mitt Romney was saying, "I love Big Bird. But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."

"I thought it was going to take Newt Gingrich to do it, but he's nailing this guy," Shuster-Who-Is-Suing-the-Federal-Government beamed.

"I love him right now," said Swing-State-Girl. "Mitt Romney is on fire!"


-- Allen Abel is a Brooklyn-born Canadian journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 J1

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