In the early Florida light, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan lingered on the tarmac as they said their goodbyes this morning, after a wild Friday night rally in Daytona Beech, a city that’s witnessed its share of passing ships.
Last night, Romney joined Ryan for an ocean-side rally that was originally supposed to be a Ryan-only event. But this wasn’t an intimate, quiet affair, for the two.
Wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and a strip of high-rise hotels with ground-floor bars, the Republican Party’s presidential ticket held a short rally for about 8,500 of Romney’s political faithful.
And they had some company that wasn’t dressed for a typical Republican rally: Bikers, some still in leather chaps; most without a collar.
A few roared their Harleys up and down Route A1A for what’s called “Biketoberfest” as Romney and Ryan spoke. Others were in no shape to ride, drinking in the beach bars, some getting sick from it.
When Romney finished, fireworks shot high above the ocean. The candidates watched them together, the Romney ralliers and biker rallies focused on the same thing.
They then retired to the upper floors of a nearby Hilton. The lower floors — and certainly the bar — belonged to the bikers.
Romney and Ryan were here for good reason:
Daytona Beach is the eastern book-end of the swing-voting Interstate 4 corridor in Central Florida, its Volusia County one of four counties where Democrat Al Gore unsuccessfully challenged the 2000 presidential election in Florida, which he lost to George W. Bush by 537 disputed votes. In 2008, President Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain not only in Florida, but also in Volusia County — by less than 14,000 of 240,000 votes cast there.
This morning, Romney and Ryan seemed sorrowful to be parting so soon. They posed for pictures with the drivers of their motorcades, signed the backs of (male) T-shirts, and made idle chit-chat.
For Ryan, it’s back to work: Rallies in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, then a hop to Newark and a long flight to Omaha, Nebraska, a state that apportions its Electoral College votes by congressional district. Only in a very, very close Electoral College contest does Nebraska’s first congressional district become important.
For Romney, remaining in South Florida for the weekend, it was time to hit the books before the final debate with Obama in Boca Raton on Monday night.