Gov. Mitt Romney Romney took the stage to a roar of applause just before 11 a.m. Wednesday in front of a crowd of thousands who waited in a chilly airplane hangar for the presidential candidate’s arrival in Tampa.
Wearing a black-and-white striped tie and his sleeves rolled up, Romney looked more informal than in previous appearances.
“My view is straight forward, I believe this is the time for America to take a different course,” Romney told the crowd. “With 23 million Americans struggling to find a good job, this is something that requires a different path than we've been on.
“I will bring real change,” Romney said. “Real reform."
Wednesday’s Tampa stop is among a trifecta of Florida visits for the presidential candidate who will be making stops in Coral Gables and Jacksonville later today.
Called a “Victory Rally,” Romney used Wednesday’s visit to explain his 5-point plan to stimulate the economy. The plan includes tapping domestic oil reserves, promoting trade with Latin America, better education, balancing the budget and lowering taxes for small and large businesses.
“For those things to happen, it’s going to require something that Washington talks about that hasn’t happened in a long, long time,” Romney said. “Reaching across the aisle.”
Romney said he had experience doing just that as governor of Massachusetts working with a majority Democrat senate.
“We worked together, we had a multi-billion budget gap,” Romney said. “Instead of fighting each other, each party took some responsibility for the deficit. We cut spending in our state and then we cut taxes as well.
“This can happen; it has to happen in Washington,” Romney said. “We’ve got to come together.”
Romney’s message resonated with Steve Brady of Plant City.
“Romney is going to get America back to work,” said Brady, 48.
“It’s not that I think (President Barack) Obama is a bad person,” said Brady, an associate pastor at Harmony Baptist Church. “His policies have failed.”
Wednesday’s visit took place at Landmark Aviation on Westshore Boulevard where Romney’s private plane served as the backdrop. The plane painted red, white and blue had Romney’s logo on the back wing and “Believe In America” painted on the side.
A Who’s Who of the Republican party took the stage prior to Romney, including Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Congressman Connie Mack, Attorney General Pam Bondi and State Rep. Dana Young.
Their messages were unified in promoting Romney’s past experience as what makes him a right fit for the job of president.
A notable non-Republican also showed up in support of Romney.
Tampa’s former mayor Dick Greco addressed the audience before Romney took the stage.
“I’m a registered Democrat. So what,” Greco told the crowd. “This is the most important election in my lifetime by far.”
Greco touted Romney’s family life and business acumen as reasons to elect him.
“We’re blessed to have a man like Gov. Mitt Romney running,” he said. “Look at his record as a person, a family man … everything he’s undertaken he’s excelled at.”
State Rep. Dana Young called Wednesday’s rally a “celebration for the election of Mitt Romney as president of the United States of America.”
“Mitt Romney is a problem solver, a uniter and together those make a great leader for America,” Young said. “If you believe in people who want real work, not just a pat on the back and a government check the answer is Mitt Romney."
Romney said parts of his 5-point plan would stimulate the job market, including his interest in exploring domestic oil and lowering taxes for businesses.
“It creates a lot of jobs in states that use energy,” he said. “When energy is low-cost and abundant it will bring manufacturing back.”
Another particularly popular point with the crowd was Romney talking about helping small businesses and lowering taxes.
“We’ve got to help small business,” he said to a round of applause. “We want to make it easier for small businesses to open their doors and keep business going.”
That was a message that spoke to Carrollwood resident Robert Penaranda. The 58-year-old immigrated to the United States from Cuba when he was 8. He's owned his own landscaping business for 30 years, but has been struggling recently.
"He's a businessman and the United States is a business and you need a business mind to run it," Penaranda said.
Romney also used his speech to pay homage to the veterans in the crowd asking all vets to raise their hand and receive applause.
“It’s a part of the American character that we live for something bigger than ourselves,” he said. “I think of the men and women who serve in the military who put themselves in harms way for our prosperity and future.”
Romney closed his brief speech by expounding on the song “America The Beautiful.” He said the song starts off describing the physical characteristics of America, but then describes the characteristics of the American heart.
“You don’t have to be larger than life to be a hero,” he said. “Just larger than yourself.”