DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — The TV ads are made. The campaign strategy is set, the closing speech written and delivered. Now, nearly six years spent running for president, all Mitt Romney can do is sprint to the finish.
After months of a much slower pace, the Republican nominee this weekend finally set out on a frenzied, all-out campaign push to win over voters in eight of the battleground states that will decide who becomes president. In the campaign's last four days, Romney will fly more than 15,000 miles, stopping in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida.
There is nothing else left to do.
"We've had some long days and some short nights, and we are almost there," Romney told a crowd of thousands in a cavernous hangar in Dubuque, Iowa, where he flew in for a tarmac rally before jetting to Colorado for two more events. "The door is open, and we're going to walk through it," he said.
The four events planned for Saturday — with four more on Sunday — represent a sharp uptick in Romney's schedule. Throughout the fall, he would sometimes hold just one campaign event per day — or none at all.
Watching from the side of the rally in Dubuque were more than a dozen of Romney's closest aides and advisers. Most flew to Ohio Friday night for a massive weekend kickoff rally that drew more than 20,000 people, the largest campaign event Romney's had so far. They will spend the weekend away from the Boston headquarters, joining their candidate on the logo-plastered airplane that's been his home away from home since August.
"At this stage, there aren't any bluffs," said Stuart Stevens, Romney's top strategist and constant companion on the campaign trail. He was watching the third speech of the day, in Colorado Springs, where enormous hangar doors opened to reveal a giant American flag. "It's all out there."
All told, they exude cautious confidence and weary nostalgia. They describe Romney's mood as light and cheerful, and say that the group — some of whom have been working for him for more than a decade — are sharing jokes and trading memories.