DUBUQUE — Three days before Election Day and a few hours before President Barack Obama was due to arrive at the same airport where he was speaking, Mitt Romney encouraged the cheering crowd not to settle.
“Americans don’t settle,” the GOP nominee told more than 2,000 people Saturday at the Dubuque Regional Airport. “We aspire. We reach. We dream.”
In many ways and many scenarios, the former Massachusetts governor’s dream of being the next president of the United States comes down to Iowa.
“With the vote of the people of Iowa, we can’t lose,” Romney said in closing a 15-minute speech before jetting off to Des Moines.
It was clear he had the support of those who waited in line outdoors and stood in the hangar to see Romney. There appeared to be few undecided voters.
Few in the crowd that interrupted Romney with chants of “Three more days” said they were surprised that he and the president were both back in Dubuque in the final days of the campaign, even though more than 20 percent of Dubuque County residents already have voted.
“I am surprised it’s this close,” said Leon Streicher of Lamont.
“We’re just here to show our support,” said Sharon Petsche of DeWitte, who was waiting nearby, adding that her mind was made up.
Nancy Rasmussen of Galena, Ill., said she hasn’t had as many opportunities to see Romney as the Iowans in the crowd.
“I know who I’m voting for, but I just wanted to see him in person and get boosted for Election Day,” she said.
Mark Dierks of Marion also came for an end-of-campaign rally.
“People are energized and we just wanted to see other people who are excited about Tuesday,” he said.
Nor did he find it unlikely that two candidates who started their campaigns more than five years ago in Iowa would finish their campaigns here.
“No, I’m not surprised by the attention,” Dierks said. “I teach social studies.”
Romney got an assist from racing legend Richard Petty, who warmed up the chilly crowd.
“I brought one of my buddies along, a guy named Romney,” he said.
Like Iowa, his state of North Carolina supported Obama four years ago, but Petty said neither NASCAR nor the nation can afford four more years of the incumbent.
Due to the Obama economy, Petty said, “We’ve been hurting because fans don’t have the little extra money to come out.”
“They have not been a good four years,” he said. “We don’t want four more years of nothing like we’ve seen.”
Dick Wilkinson seconded that thought. The Marion business owner said he voted for Obama four years ago because he wanted change.
“He said there was going to be a change and I was fed up with the last eight years,” Wilkinson said. “I thought the change was going to be a big deal, turned out the wrong way.”
That was Romney’s message in a nutshell.
“Words are cheap,” he said, but results can’t be faked.
Obama promised to be post-partisan, “but he’s been most partisan,” Romney said to start of litany of promises made but not kept by the president.
Obama has doubled the deficit after promising to cut it in half and at 7.9 percent, unemployment is higher today than when Obama promised to lower it to 5.2 percent, Romney said.
“He made promises he hasn’t kept,” Romney said. “I’m making promises I have kept and will keep for the American people.”
He promised to work across party lines to bring “real change.” Romney said the best achievements are shared achievements.
“I will not represent just one party. I will represent one nation,” he said.
From Dubuque, Romney traveled to Des Moines where he has a 10 a.m. Sunday campaign event. His running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will campaign there Monday. The president and first lady also will campaign in Des Moines Monday.