Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned in Royal Oak on the night before the Michigan primary, with Gov. Rick Snyder and music hero Kid Rock joining the “Earn It” bus tour at the .
Royal Oakers show their support
Royal Oak neighbors Ruth Sirochinan and Mike Castonia arrived at the Royal Oak Music early to show their support for Romney.
Castonia, a self-proclaimed conservative, said he was willing to support any of the remaining four Republican candidates, but felt Romney had the best chance. The other candidates are Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, who were both in Michigan on Monday, and Newt Gingrich.
“This election has to be about economic issues, not social issues,” said Sirochinan, who was sporting a United Auto Workers jacket. “Just because we’re in a union doesn’t mean we don’t think.”
Music theater plays it safe
Security for the “Earn It” rally was relatively low-key. There were no metal detectors or pat-downs to greet supporters.
“Secret service arrived early in the morning,” said Jessica Miller, the special events coordinator for the Royal Oak Music Theatre.
Security did a complete sweep of the facility before allowing reporters and supporters into the theater. Other than that, Miller said security was on par with other events at the venue.
“We’re expecting a gentle crowd,” she said.
It is not the first time the theater has been used for high-profile political events. Sen. John Edwards made a stop at the music theater in 2008.
The world comes to Royal Oak
Approximately one-quarter of the attendees at the rally were members of the media. The main floor, which is divided into three levels, had one level designated exclusively for media.
Ryo Sonoda, Kazu Murakami and Takeshi Yamasaki were covering the rally for a Japanese public television station. The crew has been crisscrossing the country since November with various candidates.
Based out of a Washington, DC, bureau, the trio prefers covering candidates in the warmer southern states. Florida and South Carolina have been favorite stops.
Michelle Bachman and Newt Gingrich are the most approachable candidates, according to Yamasaki.
As for Romney, “He plays it safe,” said Yamasaki. “He doesn’t answer too many media questions.”
Party faithful in attendance
Former Republican candidate Rocky Raczkowski, who ran for the 9th Congressional District seat in 2010, was spotted in the crowd. Raczkowski lost to Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township).
Raczkowski said he admires both Santorum and Romney, but is throwing his support to Romney.
“He is someone who has owned a business and is not molded by Washington," Raczkowski said. "He can balance the budget.”
Raczkowski indicated he knew who the special musical guest was. “You will not be disappointed,” he said.
The main event
Gov. Rick Snyder appeared on stage wearing a suit and a bright green necktie. The governor said he had just returned from a National Governor's Association dinner in Washington.
“I’m glad to be back in reality,” he told the crowd. “Washington is a mess.”
Snyder brought his family to the event and introduced Romney.
Romney and his wife, Ann, walked onto the stage hand-in-hand at 7:18 p.m. Romney quickly introduced his wife, whom he said he met when she was in second grade and he was in fourth grade.
“I didn’t notice her then,” he said.
All that changed when the pair crossed paths again when Ann was 15 years old. They met at a party and have been together ever since, Romney said.
“We love Michigan,” said Ann. “We are Michigan bred and born. When Mitt is president we’re going to be partners with this governor over here,” she said gesturing to Snyder. “We’re going to help bring Michigan back.”
Romney gave his standard 15-minute stump speech, hitting on tax cuts, cutting and capping spending and reducing the budget.
He spent little time focusing on Santorum, with whom he is in a tight race in Michigan, according to poll watchers.
Romney saved his harshest remarks for President Barack Obama.
“This is going to be a contest about who can strengthen the economy,” Romney said. “And we’ll look at his record, which has been a failure, and we’ll look at my record and the successes I’ve had in the private sector and in the Olympics and in my state.”
After his speech, Romney introduced