Florida Republicans Pack Romney's Rally in Dunedin

Roughly 1,000 supporters packed into Pioneer Park on Monday to hear GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney speak on national security and unemployment.

For Michael Kunnen and several Republican voters at , their presidential primary vote is about commitment and work ethic.

A public endorsement from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi doesn’t hurt, either.

Kunnen, a Dunedin resident and staunch Romney supporter, was one of roughly 1,000 who attended the camp’s political rally in Pioneer Park on Monday, less than 24 hours before Florida’s Republicans cast their presidential primary votes. Romney staff expected only 600.

“I was very impressed with him today,” Kunnen said. “The way he talked today, I’ve never heard on TV.”

Pam Bondi, who introduced Romney at the rally, strongly endorsed him in her introduction, saying: “I am sick and tired of suing the federal government.“

“Pam has a lot of friends in the state,” Kunnen said.

Romney spoke on issues of national security, unemployment, health care and energy during his 12-minute speech, after first briefly railing against Newt Gingrich for profiting from mortgage lenders and then President Barack Obama for changing America into an “entitlement society” and for “failing” the American people. He also spoke of his love for America, even weaving lesser-recited verses of “America the Beautiful” into his speech.

“He’s pulling out a lot of patriotism that you don’t hear from the other candidates,” Kunnen said, adding that he felt Romney spoke directly to Floridians on the issue of unemployment, which stands at a whopping 18 percent. Romney told supporters Monday that he would end regulations that kill jobs.

Another big issue for Republicans at the rally was where Romney stood on national security. Obama has said he wants to cut military funding.

"It's the most important thing to pay attention to right now," Kunnen said. "I do believe in keeping our country strong."

Kunnen said he was appalled to hear that the U.S. Navy is at its smallest since 1917.

"The world hasn't gotten safer," Romney said, rattling off several growing threats around the globe such as North Korea, China, Pakistan and the border of Mexico.

"We need to bring [the military] back into line with what it should be for a nation this size," said Jackie Nigro, voting for the first time in her life at 65 years old. "We need to make sure we're defensible."

A handful of demonstrators showed up holding signs attacking Romney's character. One sign read “Dogs Against Romney,” another “Seamus on you Mitt," alluding to a 1983 incident in which he strapped a crate with his dog Seamus inside to the roof of his car during a family road trip. 

His supporters, however, were unwavering in their judgment.

The fact that he’s been married for 42 years says enough, Kunnen said. “It shows commitment.” 

Other Republicans pointed to his work ethic.

Karen Riegle, a Dunedin resident who lived in Michigan when Romney’s father, George, was governor, said she’s familiar with the family.

“There’s nothing new for me except seeing him in person,” she said. The family "believes in working hard. We all want a better life, and that’s how to do it. He’s really a good, honest, hardworking man. We could not have a better president.”


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