Speaking from in Eagan on Wednesday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney targeted President Obama and the economy in a 15-minute speech.
Romney is fresh off his victory in the Florida primary, where he dealt a decisive blow to fellow Republican presidential rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney took 46 percent of the primary votes, compared with 32 percent for Gingrich and 13 percent for Santorum. Ron Paul took 7 percent of the vote.
The energy and momentum Romney gained in Florida was apparent on Wednesday in Eagan, where a handful of political insiders, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Norm Coleman gathered for the speech.
"We elected President Obama to lead, and he chose to follow, and now it's time for him to get out of the way,"Romney said. "This president has failed to reignite this economy."
The crowd—numbering in the hundreds—included plenty of curious, non-committed voters, as well as Romney loyalists.
Ted Williams, a 31-year-old Apple Valley resident, said he "tries to stay as independent as possible," but is looking for a political leader who has "a moderate voice."
A sometime volunteer with the Independence Party, Williams says the last big political event he attended was a Bush/Quayle rally in Wisconsin during the 1992 race: "I don't think I'll be (Romney's) lucky charm today," he joked.
"These are the toughest times ever," said Bernie Rimnac, the 54-year-old owner of Burnsville's Rimnac Construction, a masonry contractor. "We gotta be more efficient" at running the government without continuing to run huge deficits, he added.
Romney’s visit comes one week before Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri hold their own caucuses, and just over a month before Super Tuesday, when 10 states hold caucuses. From here, Romney’s campaign will head to Nevada, where the state caucuses will take place on Saturday.
Chris Salmon, wife of GOP Senate District 56 chair Joe Salmon, was hoping to support Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, but "he didn't get into the race." Now, she's convinced Romney "has the best chance to win" in November. The economy is her top priority; under Obama, the Woodbury resident says, it's "harder and harder for people to make a living."
Romney’s victory in Florida is his second win in the first four nominating contests. He trailed behind Santorum in Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucus, and lost to his principal competitor, Gingrich, in South Carolina late last month. In Florida, the former Massachusetts governor enjoyed a nearly 5-1 advantage in spending, and superior organization and planning over Gingric, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The political veteran built his campaign on promises to deregulate business, reform “onerous” environmental regulations and to cap federal spending at 20 percent of the nation’s GDP. He also plans to cut discretionary, non-security spending by 5 percent and champion the addition of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. During his speech, Romney also called for an expansion in military spending, saying the country should add as many as 100,000 new recruits to its armed forces.
Romney's presentation was interrupted twice by protesters, who threw glitter on the candidate at the beginning and end of his rally. Eagan Police Chief Jim McDonald said both protesters were escorted out of the building.
"This election is more than just replacing Obama, it’s about restoring American greatness," said Romney, who characterized the 2012 election as a “fight for the soul of America."
Correction: This article has been changed to correct an inaccuracy. Romney won 46 percent of the primary vote and all 50 of Florida's delegates.