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Romney greets big crowd in Lehigh Acres

By Staff | Jan 24, 2012

A cheering crowd of 500 or more packed the streets in front of a foreclosed

home at 2929 17th St., S.W., in Lehigh Acres late Tuesday afternoon. Standing not more than 20 feet from the foreclosure sign, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told the group that Tuesday night’s State of the Union Speech by President Barack Obama will be his last.

“We’re going to turn this country around,” said Romney. “Next year’s state of the union speech will show that we have returned to our values. We’re going to remove the federal regulations that are keeping small business from hiring people; we’re going to the help the private sector create jobs.”

Pointing at the foreclosed home behind him, Romney said there were too many homes like this and what happened should not have taken place.

“We’ve got to turn this around, get people jobs so they can afford homes,” he said. “Making changes in America will cause these houses to increase in value.”

The home on is an attractive home. A real estate company keeps the

grass cut. There are homes scattered throughout the neighborhood that are also in foreclosure.

Lehigh and Southwest Florida are second in the nation with the number of

foreclosed homes.

“Like I said, I want President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight

(Tuesday) to be his last and with your help, we can make that happen,” he said.

The crowd cheered. Hundreds of people crowded close to a metal security guard rail fence that has been set up to keep people a few feet from Romney.

He and his entourage were scheduled to be at the site at 3:20 p.m., and people had started arriving almost two hours before just to get a good spot to see the Republican nominee, who will be on the ballot along with Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul on Sept. 31 when Florida voters go to the polls.

Early voting has started in the state and thousands have already cast their ballots.

When Romney and his bus arrived, he raced across the yard to a special spot

near the foreclosure sign. Swinging out his arms, he shouted: “How are you all doing today?”

There were several times that the crowd burst out with applause as Romney told them reasons they should vote for him to win the top GOP spot.

Security was tight with dozens of press photographers, TV cameramen and

reporters, and several members of the national press corps that follow Romney around during the campaign.

He arrived about an hour late. Many in the crowd had cell phones set up to take a picture of Romney if possible.

But it was worth waiting for people such as Steve Conti of Lehigh who said he

wouldn’t have missed it for the world. He was even able to talk to Ann Romney, Mitt’s wife, who worked the crowds by shaking hands. He had her hold his pet dog while friends took pictures.

After Romney finished his remarks, which lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, he

jumped from a platform and began shaking hands with those closest to the

security fence. He continued to work the crowd for another 20 minutes or so.

While most there said they were Romney supporters, at least one said she came to honor the office of the presidency.

“I’m voting for President Obama,” said Joan Patterson. She is active in local

and county Democratic circles.

Donna Carter Daniels of Alva said she was impressed that Romney would take the time to come to Lehigh Acres.

“The crowds are so big, I’m happy they are here,” said.

Jose Garcia, 21, a student at Edison State College, said he was new to the

area and lived at Cape Coral.

“I’m here to support Romney. My family, my friends, we all support Romney,” he said. “But I am surprised at Edison that there are so many young people who support Newt Gingrich.”

Sara Pennington who works on the Trudi Williams Campaign for Congress

campaign, said she fully supports Romney. From Fort Myers, Pennington said the country needs a Republican ideology back in the White House.

Even snowbirds were in the crowd. Among them was Jim Burandl who is from

Minnesota.

Pam Torres of Lehigh said she was there to support Romney because she was going to vote for him.

“I really have no interest in Newt Gingrich. Something has to be done with the

foreclosure problem. I think Romney can solve our problems,” Torres said.

Mike Bonacolta of Lehigh was in the crowd. He admits he is a staunch Democrat, but thought since Romney was coming to Lehigh, he would come and see “what he had to say.”

Bonacolta is a member of the East County Water Control District board of commissioners.

Paula Camberato clung to her spot next to the security fence to make

sure she would see Romney when he arrived.

“I came here to support him. I think he has great ideas for our county.”

Romney told the crowd that Gingrich was an “influence peddling politician.”

“We don’t need him in the White House. The former Speaker of the House took money from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. When he was speaker the conservatives threw him out,” Romney said.

“I will be looking at tonight’s State of the Union Address by the President

and wonder what he thinks he has done to turn this country around.

“Remember and ask yourself tonight what has he done for you. There are

millions of people out of work. Here in Lehigh, the unemployment rate is sky

high. (Many believe Lehigh’s jobless rate is well about 10 and 11 percent).

Homes are being foreclosed on. People are struggling we must return to a one nation under God and work our problems out together,” Romney said.