Money in Your Pocket to Fill Your Pick-Up
It was supposed to be a 22′ pontoon boat, but the campaign said no.
I chatted with Ken Tilch on Friday morning while standing outside the store entrance on a very chilly October morning, about a half-hour before the event start time of 9:15. It was what appeared to be the first “Sportsmen for Mitt Romney” campaign rally with the Republican Team (which you come to learn means that you’ll be hearing and seeing someone other than Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney.) That day, it was comedian Jeff Foxworthy and one of the Romney brood, Josh Romney.
Tilch, who works in the maintenance department at the Cincinnati Mills Bass Pro Shops in Forest Park, Ohio, started working on setting up the fishing boat that was eventually used as a stage around 5 a.m. The Romney campaign advance crew, with a moving van full of media risers and lights, arrived ten minutes before that. Tilch, a native of Middletown and a 12-year employee of the sporting goods mega-store, said that they were given a week’s advance notice about the event. (Tilch and another employee told me that this was where VP candidate Paul Ryan had made an unannounced pit stop in August to buy his daughter some hunting gear. You may remember Ryan’s homecoming that day, at his alma mater, Miami of Ohio.)
According to Chris Cox, who addressed the crowd, he only got a day’s notice. Cox is well-known to NRA members, with his monthly articles in their membership magazine. He’s the organization’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) Chairman, and was with Wayne LaPierre in Virginia on October 5 to endorse Mitt Romney for President. Read another on-the-ground view of the event here.
Since I’m not an NRA member, I didn’t recognize Cox. After watching him be interviewed by a local tv reporter, he congregated with a group of NRA members to one side of the cordoned-off stage area. The members were easy to spot, in their hunter’s orange teeshirts. As I walked up, Cox was giving his opinion on the Biden-Ryan debate.
“I’ve known Paul Ryan for a long time,” he said. “[During the debate,] he had a command of the issues.” But Cox thought, like many other people, that the Vice President had been condescending toward his Republican counterpart.
Rudy Oliver, who’s been an NRA member for four years and drove down from Centerville (Dayton), OH, works as a volunteer making calls at a Romney Victory Center. He told me that the NRA has its own call center in his area, set up to support Romney. Oliver gushed about the movie 2016, and said that I need to watch another film about Americans losing their freedoms, Last Ounce of Courage.
I explained to Oliver that I work in the new media, and that it’s wonderful that he seeks out places to get information outside the mainstream sources (I namechecked Breitbart.com and Townhall). He got a serious look on his face, and said, “I hope someday they find out what happened to Andrew Breitbart.” I was grateful for the opportunity to share what the people close to him have said from the first: it was a heart attack, period. Even at this niche NRA rally, practically in my backyard, Breitbart was there!
Another speaker was the Ohio Veterans United Endorsement Committee Chair, Richard Stobbs. Stobbs has earned many military commendations, including the Purple Heart. At this event, he wore a medal around his neck signifying his induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame
Josh Romney is a tall fellow! Embarrassingly, I went up to talk with him just as he was being called to the stage. Later, when Jeff Foxworthy was speaking, I approached him again and talked a minute while he was autographing a few items for people. (There will be another blog later on that meeting.)
And yes, Foxworthy did tell a “You might be a redneck” joke. He said it right up top. “If you have a bass fishing boat for a stage…” he said, to the obvious enjoyment of the audience.
The ratio of men to women was noticeable skewed toward men, unlike other rallies I’ve attended such as a Josh Mandel for Senate event last July in nearby Springdale. Tea party heavy hitter Sen. Mike Lee of UT headlined to a capacity crowd of 200-plus. (Mandel has early endorser SC Sen. Jim Demint and SD Sen. John Thune heading to town later this month, too. Good to see reinforcements!) Basically, there was a scattering of spouses. I might have been only single woman there.
The host of this event was Rob Keck. He acts as an independent liaison between the Bass Pro Shops owner and other organizations. Keck was previously the president of the Wild Turkey Federation for thirty years. In his opening remarks,he had a unique spin on the usual, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” He asked the NRA-centric crowd of about 50, huddled in the breezy, mid-40 degree morning air, “Do you have more money in your pocket to fill up your pick-up?”
Edit.1: Local news video of the event
Josh Romney (@joshromney) October 12, 2012
L. to R.: Jeff Foxworthy, Josh Romney, Rob Keck