ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – A reflective, emotional Mitt Romney spoke to his largest Colorado crowd during his final campaign rally in this critical swing state Sunday night.
“We’re almost there. One final push and it’s going to get us there,” Romney said to 17,000 energetic supporters at Comfort Dental Amphitheater in Greenwood Village.
The GOP presidential nominee offered a hopeful and optimistic vision for the next four years, while asking for help in the final three days of the election.
Two days after President Barack Obama, during a rally at the University of Colorado in Boulder, looked to reclaim his 2008 mantra of change, Romney again contended that he is the candidate who could bring about "real change".
"The same course we have been on will not lead to a better destination," Romney said. "The same path we are on means $20 trillion in debt at the end of a second term – that he won’t have. It means crippling unemployment. It means stagnant take-home pay, depressed home values, a devastated military. And by the way, unless we change course, we may be looking at another recession.
"So the question of this election comes down to this: do you want more of the same or do you want real change? President Obama promised change but he could not deliver change. Now, I promise change and I have a record of achieving real change."
National reporters who have followed Romney for the last year and attended nearly every campaign rally noted that his supporters in Colorado appear to be more enthusiastic than those in any other swing state.
"If Romney could capture Colorado's enthusiasm in a bottle and carry it with him to Ohio tomorrow, he'd be in better shape," tweeted the Washington Post's Philip Rucker.
As his stump speech came to an end, a wistful Romney re-told an anecdote he's used dozens of times on the campaign trail, a story about an American flag sent by a Monument, Colo. boy scout troop into space on the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded in 1986.
But, on this night, after he told the story, he called the scoutmaster, William Tolbert, onto stage.
"I haven’t seen that flag in, I don’t know, 15 or 20 years, or that scoutmaster, but Monument, Colorado, is not that far from here," Romney said. "Would you please welcome that scoutmaster from Monument, Colorado, and that flag!"
After Tolbert appeared at the microphone alongside Romney and confirmed that the candidate had indeed gotten his story right, Romney basked in the poignant moment.
"That is a great flag representing the greatest nation in the history of the earth," Romney asserted.
Vice President Joe Biden rallied supporters in Colorado Saturday afternoon as well, before heading south to Pueblo for a second rally, as both campaigns maintain a near-constant presence in Colorado, a critical swing state, in the final days of the race for the White House.
President Barack Obama, who encouraged a crowd of 10,000 supporters to vote early during a rally in Boulder Thursday night, will return Sunday for a late-night rally in Aurora that will also feature a performance by Dave Matthews.
Biden's crowd here inside a high school gymnasium Saturday fell just short of a thousand people.
Biden, who's known for putting his foot in his mouth occasionally on the stump -- this week, he left out a key word and said that he'd never been proud to be the vice president -- opened his remarks with a riff on Daylight Savings Time, which ends at midnight.
When taking the stage, Biden reminded the crowd that tonight was end of Daylight Savings time.
"It's Mitt Romney's favorite time of the year because he gets to turn the clock back," Biden said. "He wants to turn the clock back so desperately, this time tonight he can really do it. I get in trouble, but I tell you what, I am so ready to win this election."
Romney, in his remarks earlier Saturday to an enthusiastic crowd of roughly 4,000 supporters inside the Jet Center at the Colorado Springs Airport, offered the same closing argument, a re-worked stump speech that included many of his well-worn attack lines and a general promise to jump-start the country's economy.
"I want to help the hundreds of thousands of dreamers," Romney said. "And I will."
Roughly two-thirds of Colorado's voters have already turned in their ballots, according to a Saturday update on early voting, which concluded Friday.
Close to 200,000 votes came in on Friday, bringing the total number of ballots received to 1.64 million; Democrats closed the GOP's consistent edge in early voting from 2.6 percent down to 2.3 percent.
Polls continue to show the candidates within the margin of error in the battle for Colorado and its nine electoral votes.