Joe Hanel/Durango Herald
DENVER – Flanked by fighter planes and fronted by Denver Broncos legend John Elway, Mitt Romney rallied some 6,000 supporters Monday night ahead of this week's pivotal debate against President Barack Obama.
Romney repeated the broad critique he has issued against Obama for weakness in the country's economy and its prestige abroad.
“If I am elected – when I am elected president of the United States – I will do everything in my power to keep America strong,” Romney said. “I'll do everything in my power to get our economy going again, lifting all people, helping all people in this country.”
In addition to his usual criticisms on the economy, Romney also went after Obama's performance overseas.
He said Obama's planned cuts to the military budget would endanger the country's standing, and he accused Obama of thinking he could get other countries to follow America on the force of his personality alone.
Unrest in the Middle East proves Obama wrong, Romney said.
“We're seeing fires burning at U.S. embassies around the world,” he said.
But Democrats were quick to point out Romney's comments at a private fundraiser when he said nearly half of Americans look to the government for handouts and won't vote for him.
“When Mitt Romney said behind closed doors that 47 percent of Americans think of themselves as 'victims' unable to take 'personal responsibility' for their lives, Coloradans saw confirmation of what was already clear from Romney's record and policies,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio in a prepared statement.
“Not only has he written off students, wounded veterans, seniors and combat troops with a single statement, but he had written off middle class families and teachers long ago,” he said.
After going nearly six weeks without visiting Colorado, Romney's campaign has heaped attention on the state the last two weeks.
Monday's night's rally ranked among the biggest and most enthusiastic of his campaign in Colorado.
An overflow crowd packed into a hangar at Wings Over the Rockies museum, and American military planes flanked the stage.
Elway and former Gov. Bill Owens – perhaps Colorado's two best-known Republicans – introduced Romney.
The rally kicked off an intense week on the campaign in Colorado.
Romney's wife, Ann, will lead a rally in Denver today. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will do the same Wednesday.
Wednesday night, Romney and Obama will meet at the University of Denver for their first debate.
The next day, Obama will hold a rally in a Denver park.
Also Thursday, some of the top Republicans in the country will be at a Denver hotel for a one-day Conservative Political Action Conference.