It was an all-American GOP presidential campaign event for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Naples, Florida on Sunday, from the giant American flag draped across the stage to the old-time big band playing Yankee Doodle to the voters in the audience.
From Massachusetts to Illinois, attendees spending their winters in the Sunshine state turned out to see Romney in action.
"I voted for him for governor, for senator, and I'll vote for him for president," says Richard Giallongo of Medford, Mass. "He's clean. He's conservative; he's a fiscal conservative. He's strong on defense, he's got the business experience."
Giallongo's wife, Gail, says she's not bothered by Romney's evolution on some issues like abortion over the years.
"Things change all the time, your constituency changes," she says. "You have to go with what people want, too, and what you feel personally is not what you always do. What you do in your own life doesn't matter."
Romney took the stage flanked by members of his family, including his wife, Ann, his older brother, sons and grandchildren. He led off his remarks by deriding his one of his opponents, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"He's finding excuses anywhere he can," Romney said to the crowd of nearly 3,000. "He's on TV this morning going to station to station complaining about the reasons why he's having difficulty here in Florida. But you know, we have a president who has a lot of excuses. The excuses are over and it's time to produce."
The confident Romney, who leads all the latest polling by about 10 points, did not let up.
"If you fail somewhere, if you fail in a debate or if you fail to get the support of the people, it's time to look in the mirror," he said. He added that Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac, the quasi-government mortgage giant, and it's link to the housing collapse impacting many Floridians is also to blame.
"So Mr. Speaker, your trouble in Florida is not because the audience is too quiet or too loud, or because you have opponents that are tough. You're problem in Florida is that you worked for Freddie Mac at a time when Freddie Mac was not doing the right thing for the American people," Romney said.
The front-runner then focused his attacks on President Barack Obama.
"I love this country, I love America. I do not want a president like our current incumbent in the White House who wants to transform our country into something we might not recognize," he said. "I want to restore the principles."
But despite the attacks on his opponents, Romney finished with a note of optimism.
"I'm convinced that if we have leaders who will draw on the patriotism of the American people which is deep and abiding,and if we have leaders who will tell the truth and who will live with integrity and who know how to lead, then we'll overcome those challenges and keep America the shining city on the hill that Ronald Reagan spoke of," he shouted above the cheers.
Though he was obviously popular with most of those gathered, Alna Arntzen of Quincy, Illinois, remains staunchly in the Gingrich camp..
"We can't vote here, we vote in March, but I'm going to vote for Gingrich," she says. "I think he has more experience."
Romney will hold two more events in southern Florida Sunday, while Gingrich campaigns in other parts of the state.