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Romney works to win over key swing voters in Washoe County

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Charles Dharapak / AP

With the Reno Mountains in the background, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney steps off his campaign plane at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Reno, Nev., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, before traveling to a campaign rally at the Reno Events Center.

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 | 12:22 p.m.

Romney and Ryan in Reno: Oct. 24, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes the stage at an election campaign rally at the Reno Event Center in Reno, Nev., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Romney and Ryan Rally in Henderson

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, left, introduces presidential candidate Mitt Romney during a campaign rally at the Henderson Pavilion Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. Launch slideshow »

RENO — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney culminated his two-day Nevada campaign swing in Reno today with a speech aimed at driving early voters to the polls in the key battleground county of this battleground state.

“The choice you make here in Nevada and perhaps right here in Reno will make a difference for the nation,” Romney told the crowd of more than 2,600 people at the Reno Events Center.

In his 20-minute speech, Romney sought to amplify the economic hardships he said President Barack Obama’s policies have created, speaking in broad strokes on what he would do to bolster everything from the housing market to Medicare to small businesses.

“This election is a defining election,” Romney said. “It’s not just about big things spoken about in political circles. This election is about your family. The choice you make will have an enormous impact on your family.

“If this president is re-elected, I’m convinced you’ll see the values of your homes bump along in the basement,” Romney continued. “If I’m elected—when I’m elected—we are finally going to get this housing market going again, get this economy going again. Get jobs.”

Romney’s speech echoed the closing argument of his campaign, which is expected to stick closely to the economic message without distraction. For example, his speech ignored recent news reports that the Obama administration may have known earlier than it admitted that the Benghazi attacks were planned and executed—a line the Romney campaign has been using to needle Obama since September.

Romney’s speech was one of his last opportunities to build momentum among his supporters in Washoe County—home to the state’s crossover voters who typically play an outsized role in determining the victor in statewide races.

Four days into the two-week early voting period, Republicans are optimistic about the performance of their ground game in Washoe County.

Democrats continue to have an edge in early voting turnout— they lead in Washoe County by 1,214 and statewide by 20,644. But Republicans have begun to narrow that gap in Washoe County, winning the last two days of early voting totals.

Blunting a Democratic edge in Washoe is critical to efforts to win statewide. Republicans maintain a stronghold in rural counties—which typically turnout in high numbers—while Democrats work to turnout their majority in Clark County.

How Washoe County performs can be the linchpin in either of those efforts and voters here tend to eschew partisan loyalty. Four years ago, Barack Obama won Washoe County by 13 points, while Republican George W. Bush won it by 4 points in 2004.

“I’m counting on you,” Romney told the crowd. “I need you to vote. Early voting has begun. Get your neighbors to vote, find one person who voted for Barack Obama last time and get them to come out and vote for us this time.”

Crowds began gathering for Romney’s speech at the Reno Events Center near downtown early in the morning. A small group of Democratic protestors stood on a street corner across from the event center.

Instead of the economic message, Democrats sought to push the “war against women” theme in an attempt to blunt Romney’s recent traction among the important voting bloc.

“Mitt Romney’s speech was remarkable for what voters didn’t hear: a request that the ad featuring Romney speaking directly to camera on Indiana senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s behalf be taken off the air,” Democratic spokesman Zac Petkanas said, referring to recent comments by Mourdock that a pregnancy from rape is still “something God intended to happen.”

“By allowing the ad to continue running, he is endorsing Mourdock’s demeaning comments, which isn’t a surprise given Romney’s support for eliminating Planned Parenthood and outlawing all abortions.”

Romney refused even that distraction, focusing instead on Obama.

“The president has bee unable to find an agenda and communicate an agenda and defend an agenda,” Romney said. “That’s one reason we all know he is out of ideas and out of excuses and in November you are going to put him out of office.”

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