LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) — A victory by Terri Lynn Land in Michigan's Senate race in November is important to winning back Republican control of the chamber, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told supporters during a GOP rally Thursday in his native state.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who lost the 2012 presidential race to Barack Obama, said it has been a tough time for the country since that election.
"It's time for him to apologize to America," Romney said of Obama, speaking to several hundred GOP supporters.
But, Romney said, "Help is on the way" in the person of Land, who "will make a difference in Washington."
He then introduced Land, the former secretary of state who is pitted in a tight race with Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters to replace longtime Democratic Sen. Carl Levin.
"I need your help. Michigan definitely can be the difference between new leadership in the Senate, or more of (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid," said Land, who was flanked on stage by Romney and a dozen Republican candidates for Congress, attorney general, secretary of state and more.
Land has limited media appearances and interviews through much of the campaign and generally has avoided putting herself in front of large audiences of undecided voters.
On Thursday, she did not take questions from reporters, although a few asked some questions as Land and Romney shook hands with supporters following the rally.
The Michigan race is among about a dozen being hotly contested nationally and could determine whether Republicans pick up the six seats needed to take a majority in the Senate. Peters has maintained a single-digit lead in opinion polls for most of the campaign but the race is close enough that Republicans still hope that Land will overcome his lead.
Romney was born and raised in Michigan and is the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney.
One Republican candidate not on hand was Gov. Rick Snyder, who is running for a second term as the state's chief executive.
Snyder, who is also in a tight race, against former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, had a scheduling conflict, said state Republican party spokesman Darren Littell.
While the crowd provided supportive applause to all of the event's speakers, it was Romney who drew the most enthusiastic response, earning more than one standing ovation.
Bill Schuette, who's running for another term as Michigan's attorney general, summed up the feeling in the room, saying he was sorry Romney was at the rally.
"Because I wish he was our president of the United States!"
Democratic activists protested outside the building, noting Romney's and Land's opposition to the auto industry bailout — a topic that came up later in the day at a campaign event for Bobby McKenzie, a counterterrorism expert running for Congress in a Republican-leaning district outside Detroit.
"Mitt Romney's just across the way on behalf of Terri Lynn Land and Bobby's opponent and everybody else who thought we should let the auto industry go, by the way. Don't forget that," U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said during the rally at a United Auto Workers hall only a few miles from the site of the GOP event. "I cannot for the life of me imagine a United States senator that doesn't understand that we need an American automobile industry."
Sen. Levin also was on hand to support McKenzie, as was his brother, Sander Levin, a longtime congressman, and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint.
McKenzie is running against Republican lawyer and businessman David Trott for the 11th District seat currently held by GOP freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio. Trott, who beat Bentivolio in the August primary, stood alongside Romney on Thursday.
Stabenow said McKenzie and other Democratic candidates are going to "surprise a whole lot of people" in November.