Just four days ahead of Election Day, Mitt Romney came to southeastern Wisconsin and delivered a fiery speech to a fired-up crowd at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
Those who made it inside the Wisconsin Products Pavilion — thousands were turned away with the crowd at capacity — saw Romney deliver what was said to be his "closing argument" in his quest to defeat Barack Obama. He alternated between criticizing the president and pushing his own accomplishments and vision.
"Accomplishing real change is not something I've just talked about," Romney said, noting his time in the business world, his work leading the Salt Lake City Olympics and his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. "It's something I've done."
Romney stood above a banner proclaiming "Real Change on Day One," and he stayed on that theme throughout the morning. He talked often about his first actions upon taking office, from executive orders examining regulations to changing key components of Obama's energy policies.
He positioned himself as better for businesses, while blasting Obama for what he said was lack of cooperation with Republicans and blaming others for the country's problems.
The event came at a time when polls show Obama with a slight lead in Wisconsin, and the state is seen as hugely important to both campaigns. That's evident in the candidates' schedules, with both campaigns descending on the state in the final days.
"We ask you to stay up all the way to the finish line," Romney said, "because we're going to win on Tuesday night."
Patch's media partners at Fox 6 reported an estimated crowd of 7,000, with a few thousand more turned away.
69-year-old Connie Merkel of Oshkosh said she loved Romney's message of taking responsibility and not blaming other people for the country's problems.
"For the first time in my life, with Scott Walker and these two running for president and vice president, I am actually proud to vote for them," she said. "I'm not voting for the lesser of two evils. I'm voting for them because I'm proud to vote for them as people."
Retired Packers quarterback Bart Starr, who led the team to victories in the first two Super Bowls, endorsed Romney in a surprise appearance Friday. Starr held up a copy of a Vince Lombardi book on leadership, saying the Republican nominee embodies the characteristics the coach describes.
Gov. Scott Walker, who introduced Romney, got a loud rendition of "Happy Birthday," on the occasion of his 45th birthday. The best birthday gift he could get, he told the crowd, is to use the remaining days getting out the vote for Romney.
John Lambert, vice chairman of the UW-Madison College Republicans traveled to West Allis to see Romney. As a senior in college who will soon be looking for work, he sees first-hand the economic challenges the country faces, he said.
Romney succeeded in Massachusetts, where he was faced with a Democratic majority in the Legislature, and can do it again as president, he said.
"We can't afford four more years," Lambert said.
Mary and Tony Kriss have missed out on all of the swing-state excitement living in Illinois, so they made the Friday morning trek to the State Fairgrounds to see their candidate.
"I shook his hand actually, and that is like the thrill of the day. Thrill of the week," Mary Kriss said. "We're huge supporters and (today) was an opportunity, especially coming from Illinois because he's not campaigning out there, so it's a great opportunity to see him."
About an hour after the event, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold held a press conference to bash Romney's "sketchy deal" and speak about some of Obama's accomplishments in the past four years.
Feingold said Romney would not work across the party aisle as he would like the public to believe.
"In these closing days he reinvented himself again," Feingold said. "When running in the Republican primary he called himself something I have never heard, a 'severe conservative.' Now he's changing his tune and reinvented himself as a moderate."