Local television crews swarmed the Old Gym at Marquette Thursday morning to witness an appearance by Ann Romney at a campaign rally in support for her husband, Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. With over 400 people in attendance, the event attracted students, professors, politicians, supporters, protestors and members of the media.
Operating under a theme of “Women for Mitt,” Ann Romney emphasized her husband’s support for women.
“He cares about women … making the economy work for women,” Romney said. ”We need to have women understand Mitt is a person who cares.”
In attendance were a group of women who had previously served under Mitt Romney during his time as governor of Massachusetts, a statement which, according to Ann Romney, demonstrated his track record of supporting women and hiring women for key roles in his administration.
“The bottom line of having these women here, having me here and having all of these women in the audience is to know that Mitt put women in key leadership positions to help create job growth,” Romney said.
Before she took the stage, a number of female politicians and supporters from Wisconsin spoke on Mitt Romney’s behalf, including Marquette student Sam Zager, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and cochair of the Coalition of Young Americans for Mitt Romney, who spoke about her support of Romney and her disappointment with the Obama administration.
Republican state senators Alberta Darling and Leah Vukmir and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also joined Zager onstage at the event.
The focus on female voters was seen as a response to criticism the Romney campaign has received in the past for struggling to connect with women. A Marquette Law School poll released last Wednesday, a day before Ann Romney’s visit, showed Mitt Romney trailing President Barack Obama in Wisconsin by 14 percentage points among likely voters, a huge increase in the gap from the same poll released last month.
While the speakers chose not to address the poll’s results directly, it was clear that the emphasis of the day was on encouraging women to support Romney, with specific attention given to female college students. Pat Garrett, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and Chairman of Marquette College Republicans, was pleased with the platform of the event.
“I think it was a really good event to bring two groups that don’t necessarily always vote Republican into the Republican fold, and that’s women and students,” Garrett said. “I think that we’re doing a great job reaching out to those voters now, and if we keep doing that, then we’re going to bring them to the fold and we’re going to win in November.”
While the event was geared specifically toward Republicans, and the majority of students in the audience were from Marquette, there were Democrats and students from other universities who came to hear Ann Romney speak.
“I came to listen, and I came to see what I am disagreeing with,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison student and Democrat Erik Tyler, who took a bus early on Thursday morning and missed class in order to attend the event.
“I completely disagree with most of the speeches, but I want to be informed going into the election, so this was a good opportunity for me to remind myself why I am not a Republican,” he said. “I mean, us Democrats don’t need to remind voters that we support women. Our actions speak louder than their words.”