"Freezin' for a Reason" in Bucks County, Pennsylvania
That’s how Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey summed up the feelings of the tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians, Jerseyites, et al, who stood tonight for hours in dropping temperatures, waiting to hear the optimism and inspiration of Ann and Mitt Romney. My husband and I arrived at Shady Brook Farm, a place where our kids have often gone for 4th of July festivities and Halloween hayrides, around 3:30 pm, and joined the crowds pouring off shuttle buses from offsite parking lots, slogging through TSA tents and steering for the massive American flag rippling from a crane by the stage. Several people had heard reports that 27,000 had confirmed their free tickets by e-mail – I can’t say what size the final crowd was, but it was huge. Everyone was in a great mood, introducing themselves, sharing hometowns, giddy with anticipation for the day after tomorrow. To be honest, there was also some grousing - over the state of the economy, what neighborhoods were still without power from Hurricane Sandy and, worst of all, the Eagles.
Tom Smith, the Republican businessman who’s made a stunning run against incumbent Senator Bob Casey, Jr., started pumping hands around the perimeter of the crowd at 5 pm, and then the program began with Lt. Governor Jim Cawley and Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick. Mike noted our county’s history of freedom lovers - how 20 minutes south of us William Penn established his home, Pennsbury Manor; 20 minutes to the east George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Eve; and an hour north, Ronald Reagan spoke at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in 1984, delivering his ‘Morning in America’ anthem. Tom Smith spoke of how, after their three daughters were grown, he and his wife adopted a family of four siblings and raised them too, and how he wants his 9 grandchildren to share in the full benefits of America’s freedom and opportunity. Senator Toomey urged us all to ‘send Mr. Smith to Washington,’ and the Marshall Tucker Band got everyone enthusiastically singing along with one of their hits - with a slightly modified refrain - “Can’t ya see, can’t ya see – what Obama’s been doin’ to me?”
Governor Tom Corbett had the unenviable job of filling the time till the late-running Romney bus arrived – a man to my right mentioned how George Bush had been punctual to the minute at a rally he had attended years ago. Corbett did prompt a response from the crowd, though, when he said, “Now I want you all to turn and look over there, where the media people are standing” – he indicated an elevated platform with dozens of cameramen and photogs – “and tell them if you’re ready to put Mitt Romney in the White House!” We all know those media types. The cheer was a sonic boom.
Finally, Corbett got the signal, an engaging video about the Romneys played on the large screens, and at the end the bus pulled right up to the stage and the crowd went wild. Mrs. Romney graciously thanked everyone for waiting in the cold – it was now after 7 – and reiterated her promise that Mitt “will – not – fail!” and introduced her husband. Mitt rolled out his upbeat, enthusiastic vision, constantly punctuated by cheers – I’m sure you’ve all heard clips from it in the last few days: “he makes excuses – I’ve got a plan” - “on January 20th I won’t just take office, I’ll take responsibility.” There is not a drop of hesitation in the man.
Mitt concluded by talking about the terminally ill young boy whom he helped in making out a will, and the audience calmed to a hush. He said the boy really loved the fireworks on Independence Day and hoped to see them, but was afraid he might not make it till the Fourth. Mitt attempted to get the town to do an early fireworks display, but town ordinances prevented it. “So you know what we did? We drove him up to Maine. Because Maine didn’t have those laws, so he and his family got to enjoy those fireworks after all!” The crowd erupted.
He called out his last thank yous, and as he and Ann waved and strode toward the steps, fireworks sailed up over the immense rippling American flag and burst high above us.