By Bill Archer
For The Register-Herald
ABINGDON, Va. —
Appearing energized by his performance in the first presidential debate Wednesday night, former Gov. Mitt Romney was preaching to an equally energized audience at his noon message to thousands of people gathered at Carter Machinery in Abingdon, Va.
Romney listed his top five priorities if he is elected, and started his list with his pledge to “take full advantage of our energy resources, coal, oil, gas,” and other energy resources. “I don’t believe in putting coal underground forever,” he said. He added that, “within eight years, I believe America should be energy independent.”
Even with a close proximity to I-81, and good roads all around, it seemed to be a challenge for law enforcement to control the flow of traffic that descended on Abingdon. West Virginia State Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, said he heard the crowd was upward of 12,000, but with the uneven configuration of the Carter Machinery lot, an accurate crowd estimate would be tough to make.
“I think Gov. Romney did a great job,” Gearheart said after Romney’s remarks. “He talked about several of the issues he addressed during the debate on Wednesday night, but he also talked about his support for the military and love of country.”
Indeed, during his remarks when Romney asked for a show of hands of veterans in the audience, the responding show of raised hands was impressive. In response to the sight, Romney recited the rarely heard third verse of “America the Beautiful.” “O beautiful for heroes proved, In liberating strife. Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life.”
Tom and Mary Ann Worley drove to Abingdon Friday morning from their farm in Mountain City, Tenn. Both are retired now — she as an educator, and he in the transportation industry — but they are both working harder than ever to maintain Tom’s family farm ... a farm that has been in the family since the 1790s.
“They call those Century Farms in Tennessee,” Mary Ann Worley said with pride. We’re both here because we think Romney can save America.”
Amanda Melki of Adkins, Va., and Jordan Mercer of Marion, Va., — both 17 and both seniors at Marion Senior High School, were in the crowd of thousands waiting to see Romney. Both were sporting badges proclaiming “Even Cute Girls like Romney.” Melki hopes to attend Harvard University next fall, and Mercer plans to attend Virginia Tech.
“We both just wish we were one year older so we could vote next month,” Melki said. “I just like everything Mitt Romney stands for. I think three-fourths of our student body likes what Romney stands for.”
The Southwest delegation in the Virginia General Assembly was well represented in the opening moments of Romney’s Abingdon appearance. Delegate Israel D. O’Quinn, R-Grayson, warmed the audience up by proclaiming that Romney “has the knowledge to get our country moving again,” and Sen. Charles W. “Bill” Carrico, R-Carroll, offered a powerful Scripture reading and prayer, saying that: “God will heal our lands.”
Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell, led the audience in a spirited presentation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and fired up the crowd with a high-energy pitch of his own. “Coal country? Are you ready to see Mitt Romney?” he said. Morefield said southwest Virginia voters will send a message around the world, “that change is going to come in November.”
Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, fired up the people attending the event by saying: “How about that debate the other night!” and followed it up saying: “We are right this time. We can save this country.” He said that while President Barack Obama complained that he inherited problems from the administration of former President George W. Bush, “Look at the mess Mitt Romney will inherit.”
Delegate Annie B. Crockett-Stark, R-Wythe, complained that, “Politics should never come before our nation’s security.” Crockett-Stark said she wants affordable health care and private sector jobs. “I want coal to keep us warm and lit,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., expressed his hope that people attending the event would go out and encourage their family, friends and neighbors to vote in the Nov. 6 election.
“We can win this race,” Griffith said. “I’m talking about the people of the 9th District.” He encouraged those in attendance to tell their friends and neighbors that the Obama administration “is a failed administration.”
After a 20-minute break, Kevin Crutchfield, chief executive officer of Alpha Natural Resources, emerged from the Carter building to tell the audience that the nation needs a leader who “doesn’t punish success” and doesn’t apologize to the nation’s critics. He said the country needs an energy policy that considers all of the nation’s natural resources, and not a leader who hand-picks “winners and losers,” he said.
“Thank you, Virginia,” Romney said as he emerged from visiting with local people before coming out to the podium. “I love you guys too.” He acknowledged that “these are tough times,” but he also brought a message of hope. “You may know that a couple of nights ago, we had a debate,” he said, and the crowd erupted in response.
Romney received another large round of applause when he stated: “I want to get rid of Obamacare,” and added that he didn’t want to kill jobs, but to create jobs and help small businesses. In addition to his remarks in support of the coal industry in the context of a national energy policy that addresses all of the country’s natural resources, Romney received a solid response when he addressed the needs of the U.S. military.
— Bill Archer is a writer for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph