It was a moment of political theater for the Mitt Romney campaign on Wednesday in Charlotte.
The presumptive Republican candidate gave what his campaign called a "prebuttle" close to Bank of America Stadium, where the president will be accepting the Democratic nomination in September. Romney chose the venue wisely, though rain kept the proceedings indoors. Roof with a View was set to hold 100 but filled with at least twice that.
Romney - entering to a soundtrack of Kid Rock's "Born Free" - wore a flag pin as he stood in front of a giant American flag and spoke at a lectern labeled "Obama isn't working." He quoted lines from the president's 2008 Denver speech, pronouncing each promise a failure and concluding that Obama "is over his head and swimming in the wrong direction." (Romney squeezed this open-to-the-media appearance between two closed North Carolina fundraisers, one at a Raleigh restaurant and the other at Myers Park Country Club.)
In the Washington Post, I wrote about the approval of the crowd - cries of "Mitt! Mitt!" filled the air - and the support of many women in the crowd who feel Romney is not really as conservative as his primary rhetoric.
But there were also protesters, including Ron Paul supporters, who also kept vigil outside the Myers Park Country Club, and activists who disapprove of the company Romney keeps on immigration reform and his promise to veto the Dream Act if elected. The act provides a path to permanent residency for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors if they serve in the military or complete college.
With a focus on in-state tuition for undocumented residents, Moises Serrano, 22, of the grassroots group El Cambio, and others traveled from Yadkin County to attend the Romney rally. Serrano's parents brought him to the U.S. when he was 18 months old.
"I want to hold Romney accountable," he said, for the conservative positions the candidate took in the primary season. Despite Romney's appointment of Hispanic outreach officials, particularly in swing states, "he does not have the Latino vote for North Carolina," Serrano said. Though he embraced his support in the past, Romney has started to back away from Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and architect of Arizona's strict immigration law. "It's a political ploy," Serrano said, "a tactic."
Giovanna Hurtado, 22, said it's important for young undocumented immigrants to step out of the shadows and give a human face to a contentious issue. "If he vetoes or wants to veto the Dream Act," she said, "the Latino vote will veto Romney."
Earlier on Wednesday, in a conference call that might be called a prebuttal to Romney's prebuttal, Democratic N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan praised the progress under the president's economic policies. She also said the president "believes in a country where women are given equal pay for equal work." Hagan reminded reporters that almost every Republican in Congress voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill the president signed into law, and that when asked, Romney would not say whether he would have voted for it.
Congressman Mel Watt, also on the call, said he was "especially incensed" that Mitt Romney was making "this mock speech in my congressional district." He challenged Romney to release his tax records and specifics of what he would do as president. "It's time for him to come clean," Watt said.
The president returns to North Carolina, according to the White House, in a Tuesday trip to the Research Triangle Park. In the continuing quest for control of the 15 electoral votes in this swing state, expect to see and hear from both candidates in the months leading up to November.
Watch Romney discuss immigration in a 2007 interview with "Meet the Press."
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's "She the People" blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her "Keeping It Positive" segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.
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