JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Politics these days is all about "optics," and the scene in Jacksonville on Monday morning (January 30) said it all. MTV News boarded the Mitt Romney campaign bus for what we hoped would be an exciting day with the GOP front-runner.
A short 15-minute drive brought us to the Ring Power Lift facility, a heavy-equipment seller, which was packed with supporters standing under a giant American flag. The campaign set up a stage there with a giant Romney "Believe in America" banner at the far end.
Los Angeles folk singer John David Kahn warmed up the crowd with a pair of red-blooded Americana tunes, including his unofficial Tea Party anthem, "American Heart." "I won't be made to ever feel ashamed ... that I'm American made/ I got American parts," he crooned.
Romney finally made his way in, smiling and shaking hands while Kid Rock's "Born Free" blasted from the speakers. He opened by mocking Gingrich's performance in the two recent debates. A man in the crowd shouted, "Send him to the moon!" a reference to Gingrich's recent claim — notably in NASA-hub South Florida — that he was in support of a colony on the moon.
Then he moved on to President Obama, running off a list of what he said were the commander in chief's deficiencies, including shrinking the military. "The world is not safer, yet the president is shrinking our forces," Romney said.
He also gave props to those who've been, ahem, "extraordinarily successful" in their U.S. business ventures. And as always, Romney included a few of his favorite verses from "America the Beautiful."
And just like that, he was back to shaking hands and signing campaign posters as we hustled back to the bus for a flight to Tampa for the next stop.
MTV is on the scene in Florida! Check back here around the clock for up-to-the-minute coverage on the primary caucuses and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the 2012 presidential election season.