The presidential campaign of Mitt Romney made a brief stop in the Twin Cities this afternoon, bringing with it a surprise glitter attack, the candidate again singing “American the Beautiful” and some humor.
Start with the humor. Two mayors, R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Mike Maguire of Eagan, were standing outside the gates leading to the parking lot at the Eagan freight company where Romney was to hold a quickie rally.
Standing almost alone, the two mayors were preparing to deliver an anti-Romney, pro-Obama message to the media, when a woman, driving a white Lexus SUV pulled up.
“Where do I park?” the mayors said they were asked.
Despite opposing Romney, the two said they were helpful. The mayors and a couple of their associates pointed to the freight company’s large parking area.
“Are you the valet service?” the woman asked.
Laughing, the mayors, told the woman they were not.
“I call myself a full-service mayor but not that full service,” Maguire said later.
Unscripted moments at a scripted event
There were other unscripted moments in this largely scripted event, in which Romney delivered a stump speech without bothering to reference the fact that he was even in Minnesota.
When Romney, fresh off his big victory in Florida, entered the warehouse space that had been cleared for the event, he was glitter-bombed twice, once by someone from Occupy Minneapolis and once from someone from the gay rights group Glitterati.
This little bit of anti-Romney theater backfired, because Romney, who always has the perfect hair, used it to talk about his victory and to poke fun at himself.
“Confetti,” he said of the glitter, adding it was clearly a show of celebration for the Florida win. He noted that come November, there will be no celebratory confetti in Obama’s hair.
Then, laughing, he said “Glitter in my hair. That’s not all. I glue my hair on every morning.'”
He got big laughs.
Bigger laughs by the way, than when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty tried to tell a little joke in introducing Romney.
Pawlenty, who was introduced by former Sen. Norm Coleman, noted that neither he nor Coleman nor Michele Bachmann is the best-known Minnesotan.
“The best-known Minnesotan is the former ‘Kris Kardashian,’ ” Pawlenty told the crowd. There were a lot of raised eyebrows, and Pawlenty — never quick with a punch line — moved toward the point of his story.
Kris Kardashian, he explained, is Kris Humphries, the basketball player. “I know he’s a fine player,” Pawlenty said.
“And his marriage lasted longer than my presidential campaign,” Pawlenty concluded.
The line did not exactly leave people rolling on the concrete floor.
But Romney — as well as his wife, Ann — did seem to get to the crowd, which was not exactly buzzing as it entered the Eagan freight company warehouse.
A mixed-up mix of music
The long rock musical selections featured didn’t exactly help fire up the crowd, give the fact that this was not exactly a contemporary rock sort of gathering.
One of the songs on the pre-appearance playlist was “Pumped Up Kicks” by a group called Foster the People.
A young person in the audience explained the song to an old reporter.
Despite its peppy beat, it’s actually built around the slaughter at Columbine High, with the lyrics describing a young person’s thoughts of going on a killing spree.
Apparently, whoever had the song on the playlist thought better of it. The song suddenly was stopped, replaced by a country-western, toe-tapping tune, which seemed a much more appropriate approach to the musical souls of this older, virtually all-white crowd.
The candidate’s spouse quickly won the adoration of the crowd as she went about the business of introducing her husband.
Back in the days when the Romneys were raising their five sons and her husband was away from home on a business trip, he’d call home to “an exasperated wife.”
“He’d say, ‘Don’t worry, sweetie. Your job is more important than my job,’ ” she said her husband would say. “Whatever I do is only temporary. Your job brings forever happiness.”
The crowd loved that. And, given the large number of folks of grandparent age, they loved it when Ann Romney talked about the couple’s 16 grandchildren.
Recalling that sometimes the Romneys’ sons “were naughty … the great joy is watching our grandchildren sometime misbehave.”
Although he was giving his stock speech — “this campaign is about more than replacing President Obama, it’s about the soul of America!” — Romney delivered his speech with considerable passion. He was either still buoyant after the Florida win, or he seems more genuine in person than he does on television.
Romney’s big applause typically came whenever he spoke negatively about Obama, which he did throughout. In fact, not only did he not mention Minnesota, he didn’t mention a single one of his Republican opponents by name.
The biggest applause line of all seemed a little ironic.
Romney, to great cheers, said on his first day in office he would “repeal Obama-care.”
The crowd didn’t seem at all conflicted by the fact that the federal health care reform bill is based in large part on health care reforms Romney made while governor of Massachusetts.
The other big applause came for what appears to be destined to become a standard part of Romney’s public appearances, the singing of “American the Beautiful.”
He first turned singer at a nursing home in Florida. That effort was pilloried by the likes of Jon Stewart, but obviously it must have been greeted positively by Republican voters because he was at it again this afternoon.
“I love the hymns of America,” he said and started speaking the words, “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies …”
“Sing it!” the crowd cheered.
“OK,” Romney said. “If you sing it with me.”
And they did.
Part political theater, part campaign circus
There wasn’t, of course, much news surrounding this event. It was just a touch of the campaign circus that’s being played out in other states.
Eagan police apparently decided that having presidential politics come to their community was a big enough deal to drive their huge command center vehicle, obviously purchase with Homeland Security money, to the Romney visit.
The hulking command center seemed like just a bit of overkill as it pulled into a parking lot near where a smattering of anti-Romney people were gathered.
Katie Cashel, of St. Paul, was in the anti-Romney group, knitting as she protested.
When she saw the command center, she laughed.
“You’ll have to pry this Nifty Knitter from my cold dead fingers,” she said as she looked across the street to the command center.
In fact, Maguire, the Eagan mayor, said that the Romney campaign was responsible for paying for the large police presence. Up until last night, the campaign had not been receiving Secret Service protection.
The campaign has announced that it now has requested — and will receive — the protection of the Secret Service.
It should be noted that Romney’s speech wasn’t the only stock stump speech being delivered today.
Rybak, an official Obama surrogate, also reeled off a stock series of responses when television cameras were aimed his way.
After delivering his anti-Romney, pro-Obama stuff, Rybak stepped away from the cameras and said, “I didn’t use all my good stuff.”
What did the mayor hold back?
“Romney says, ‘I didn’t know about the negative ads. … I didn’t know about my Swiss bank accounts …”
The mayor said when he hears all of these Romney denials, he’s reminded of “Madonna singing ‘Like a Virgin’ and he’s just as believable.”
The campaign wasn’t here long. Romney left the warehouse, headed the few miles to the airport and jumped on a plane for Nevada.
But it was entertaining while it lasted.