GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney addressed thousands of people Friday outside Kinzler Construction in Ames, promising big changes, bipartisanship, and to create 12 million jobs if he is elected president.
“We recognize this is a year with a big choice, and the American people want to see big changes. And together we can bring real change to this country,” Romney said.
Photos: Romney Speaks at Kinzler in Ames Friday
Romney, who is statistically tied in the polls with President Barack Obama, drew loud applause on several lines including when he discussed why the election matters to young Americans.
“It matters to the college student, graduating this spring, with $10 to $20,000 in student debt, who now learns that she also will be paying for $50,000 in government debt, a burden that will put the American Dream beyond her reach," he said.
One of those cheering to that line was Ben Cash, a political science major at Iowa State University who supported Obama in 2008 but will vote for Romney on election day in Warren County.
“Gas prices have doubled, food prices have gone up… (Romney) will roll back regulations, champion small businesses and make it more appealing for entrepreneurs to come here,” Cash said on why he switched parties.
Jeff Cesler, of Ames, said he already voted for Romney and liked his promise of big change but seemed most excited that he was able to shake Romney's hand.
“It's the first time I touched a president's hand, I hope I can say that,” Cesler said. ”I hope and pray we get the change that he talked about today.”
Hours before Romney's appearance about a dozen people protested across the street, some wearing Romney masks.
Progress Iowa, which organized the protest, said Kinzler Construction received $650,000 in stimulus funds, undercutting everything Romney had to say. A sign outside the insulation business read, "Now Hiring."
Members of Romney's campaign stood in front of the protesters holding large Romney and Ryan signs to deflect passerby’s attention.
Elsewhere in Ames, Sen. Tom Harkin, Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak held a press conference to refute Romney's economic speech.
Harkin said Romney has an unbalanced worldview and touched on his Bain Capital corporate buyouts.
"Romney is trying to hoodwink the American people into believing that he’s in this for the middle class, but he’s not being honest. The truth is that he’s in this only for folks at the top, and that’s not what Iowans want in their President," Harkin said.
The Huffington Post reported Friday that Romney seems to be taking a slim margin in national polls, but Obama still leads in Iowa.
State Sen. Jerry Behn, U.S. Rep. Steve King, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley spoke before Romney came to the podium.
Grassley seemed to make a misstep in his introduction of Romney.
“We will put America on a new path to a new day with a new President Obama,” Grassley said, pausing. “A new president Obama? Pardon me, I want to forget that word.”
Paula Birch, of Wyoming, was visiting her daughter in Ames and said she will vote for Romney.
“He brings up everything this nation needs right now,” she said, “We are excited to be here to support him.”