As voters offer their advice, Romney will nod, smile, and keep moving down the line. "Thank you, thank you," he'll repeat, reaching out to shake hands, stopping briefly with an extra smile or kind word for a baby or small child pushed forward by excited parents.
There is one surefire way to get Romney's attention: bring along memorabilia from his father's presidential campaigns. Voters who come armed with stories about having met George Romney, who ran for president in 1968 and for governor of Michigan before that, are much more likely to get an extra moment of attention or a quick autograph from his youngest son. The old George Romney campaign signs and buttons have even spawned a new line of vintage-style campaign swag that's now for sale on Romney's website.
Friday afternoon in Ohio, nine men in suits spread out behind the candidate as he worked his way along the barriers with the crowd. Less visible, additional Secret Service agents followed along through the crowd, having to push their way sideways along through Romney supporters trying to surge forward.
With just a few days to go before the election, most of the requests have been distilled into a simple instruction: "Kick his butt!" yells Andy Yates, a volunteer from North Carolina who traveled to Ohio to help Romney win. He attended Romney's afternoon rally near Columbus, where 8-year-old Adriana Marcum earned a handshake even though there were several rows of people in front of her: She was conveniently perched on her father's shoulders.
"It's not really so much advice anymore," says Garrett Jackson, the personal aide who follows Romney along the rope lines, black Sharpie markers at the ready in case the candidate wants to sign autographs. "It's just: win."
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