TAYLORS- WADE HAMPTON, SC- In a 15-minute speech in front of hundreds of supporters, Mitt Romney was energized and excited about returning to the campus of Wofford College, a small liberal arts school in Spartanburg, S.C.
Flanked by State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Nascar legend David Pearson and his wife, Ann, Romney was eager to tell the crowd why he was the only choice to run against President Barack Obama.
On this brisk January day, Romney gathered a crowd around a small platform in pure old school stump fashion outside Benjamin Johnson Arena. As supporters waved signs and American flags, Romney talked about being outside, under the trees, even remarking at one point, "What kind of tree is that, I don't even know. Oh, it's a Mitt Romney tree," he says laughing, reacting to the audience."
Romney was relaxed in the outdoor setting, his upbeat introduction of "sweetheart," whom he recalled seeing for the first time in elementary school, she was in the second grade, he in the fourth. But it was around the age of 16 he really took notice of her, even offering to take her home after a party one night at a friend's home and he said they've been "going steady ever since."
His wife offered her own endorsement of her husband's abilities to lead the country, "You have yourself this question, 'Who can beat Obama?' This guy right here can.
"You have to ask yourself another question, 'Who can turn the economy around?' Only one other person, this guy right here."
The light-hearted opening gave way to a rhetorical firing squad aimed at former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Obama and even a jab at former vice president, Al Gore.
A new CNN/Time/ORC poll shows the former Massachusetts governor maintained a strong lead over Gingrich this week despite Monday's debate performance.
The poll shows Romney with 33 percent support, with Gingrich 10 points behind at 23 percent.
"The speaker just the other day at the debate was talking about how he created millions of jobs when he was working with the Reagan administration," Romney said. "Well, he’d been in Congress two years when Ronald Reagan came to office. That would be like saying 435 congressmen were all responsible for those jobs.”
“Government doesn’t create jobs. It’s the private sector that creates jobs. Congressmen taking responsibility or taking credit for helping create jobs is like Al Gore taking credit for the Internet.”
It was a message Wofford College student Cayla Eddy said was inspiring.
"We do need to get the nation turned around so that when I graduate that I will have a job that Wofford has well-prepared me for," Eddy said. "I also believe it is the town's responsibility to create the jobs, the government just oversees that."
Faith Morris of Spartanburg came really to people-watch more than listen to a stump speech.
"I was curious," Morris said. "I was actually watching the crowd more than listening."
Morris pointed out a Romney look-a-like in the crowd and Ann Romney signing posters, flanked by security guards.
A Wofford Senior didn't want to miss her opportunity to see the presidential hopeful on campus this time.
Victoria Bone said she had missed Romney's visit during the CBS/National Journal debate, but wanted to be there to support him on her campus.
"I like that he promotes fiscal responsibility and his conservative outlook," Bone said of the candidate. "We need to put social issues on a back burner right now and take control of the budget."
Bone said there had been a lot of chatter on the school's conservative campus about what candidate would win not only the nomination, but South Carolina.
"There was a huge buzz when Obama got elected," Bone said. "And I think if Romney is elected, it's going to be a huge buzz once again."