"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 in an airplane hangar at Orlando Sanford International Airport, the first of five rallies on Monday. "We need every single vote in Florida."
In the Florida crowd, supporters waved signs that said "Vote for love of country," a response to President Barack Obama’s instruction to supporters that voting is the "best revenge." A second stop in Lynchburg, Va., featured an enormous "Get Out and Vote" banner.
The Florida rally was supposed to have been the beginning of his last and longest day of campaigning, a sprint through Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire, from morning and ending with a late-night rally in Manchester that’s been billed as his last hurrah. But Republican campaign officials said Romney was considering a last-minute, surprise stop Tuesday in Ohio, the critical battleground where Romney has been stubbornly stuck behind Democratic President Barack Obama in polls.
The move could echo Obama, who campaigned in Indiana on Election Day in 2008. He ultimately the state, which typically backed Republicans for president.
But while Indiana’s 11 electoral college votes were a nice addition to Obama’s 365-vote Electoral College landslide, Romney is banking on Ohio to carry him over the finish line in what’s been a fluid but closely fought contest. Without Ohio, Romney has to win nearly every other battleground state to defeat Obama.
"Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow," said Romney, his voice a bit hoarse as he spoke using a teleprompter to prevent mistakes borne of weariness. By the time he lands in New Hampshire on Monday night, Romney will have covered more than 15,000 miles in four days, stopping in Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and New Hampshire. Monday’s five rallies are the most Romney has held in a single day during the general election campaign.
He covered tens of thousands of miles in the 523 days since he announced his presidential bid in New Hampshire on June 2, 2011. This is his second presidential run. 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 preparing to move into the White House. 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.
On the plane, reporters pressed aides to reveal how Romney would spend his remaining hours, including what he might eat for his final meal of the campaign.
"He is going to live beyond Tuesday," joked Rick Gorka, Romney’s traveling spokesman.
Nearly a dozen of Romney’s top aides accompanied him on Monday. Some have worked with Romney for more than a decade, and there are flashes of nostalgia; one recalled being with Romney the day he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
Supporters seem to know they’re watching history, too. On the rope line after his Florida event, one 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. "We can begin a better tomorrow, tomorrow," he said.