Salena Zito
NORTH HUNTINGDON – Mitt Romney was fired-up.

“The president actually said, if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.” He paused and threw his hands up before adding: “Really?”

Sitting in a small office attached to a local shale industry company for an interview with the Trib, Romney remained agitated and energized.

The agitation was personal because he is genuinely appalled by President Obama’s attitude toward business.

“I could not believe he said that. And it wasn’t just a twist of phrase, he actually goes on to explain what he meant by that,” Romney said, suddenly stretching forward as if finding it difficult to contain his feelings.

The energy came from what arguably was the presumptive Republican nominee’s best rally so far. More than 1,400 people packed a 4,000-square-foot warehouse – but it wasn’t the numbers, it was the event’s organic nature.

This was not a stacked rally, to which the usual GOP suspects bring a friend, or a ticketed event, for which you go to a local elected official to pick up a pass reserved for people who clap on cue.

This was the real deal – and the crowd, with nearly as many Democrats as Republicans, let Romney know they loved him and his message.

Bill Brasco of nearby Jeanette isn’t just a Democrat. He is an elected Democrat, serving as the local school board president for more than 42 years, the second-longest-serving board president in state history.

“Been a Democrat since I turned 21 and proud of it,” he said, adding that he will not vote for Obama in November.

“I just do not like the direction this country is going under the president,” he explained.

Brasco, 75, was one of many Democrats giving Romney more than a dozen standing ovations at the Westmoreland County rally.

“I could not have been more impressed,” he said. “I particularly liked when he talked about his five-point plan to get the economy roaring.”

Brasco, who spent most of his working career in sales, listed Romney’s points as if he himself had authored them: “Energy, trade, balanced budget, better education through training and skills, and economic freedom. … No, he was impressive, that was an amazing event.”

Who inspired whom more was difficult to determine: Did Romney feed on the crowd’s electricity, or did it feed on his?

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that weeks of Obama's attacks on Romney’s time at Bain Capital and demands for the release of Romney’s taxes have not dissuaded the GOP base or soured swing Democrats or independents against Romney.

The effect, remarkably, has been the reverse.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.