SARASOTA, Fla. - GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid a visit to the Suncoast Thursday, with a private fundraiser, followed by first grassroots rally in Sarasota at the Ringling Museum.
Thousands came out to show their support with just 47 days left in the campaign. Supporters and protestors alike braved the Florida heat outside the museum to welcome Romney to Sarasota.
Some supporters even traveled hours to hear what he had to say. "We've lost a lot of ground in four years, and I'm really concerned about my children and what we're gonna look like in another four years," said supporter Mary Hall.
“I'm a supporter because I believe the agenda he has is appropriate for our circumstances," said Richard Reibman.
Topping Mitt Romney's list was Medicare. He pointed to the $716 billion he says the president cut from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. "That $716 billion represents $1.4 billion in Sarasota County alone. And what it means is that the Medicare trustees looked at what's gonna happen by virtue of this $716 billion cut to Medicare and what they say it's gonna do, is about 4 million people who have Medicare Advantage are going to lose it," said Romney.
Then it was on to the economy, and his five point plan to get it going. “You want to see jobs really take off in this country, we're gonna have to do all five of these things. The first one was energy; the second was have trade that works for us and cracking down on cheaters; the third was to make sure we have the skills for our current workers and our young people that they need to succeed; the fourth was to get us on track to a balanced budget; and number five is to champion small business -- that's where jobs come from.”
Romney said what's happening in Washington is not just bad economics, it's also immoral. "I think it's wrong for my generation to pass on trillions of dollars in debt to the coming generation. I'll get America on track to a balanced budget and restore the kind of discipline we ought to have in Washington.”
The latest Fox News poll has Mitt Romney trailing in three key battlegound states: Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
“We need to restore our commitment to life, and our commitment to pursuit of happiness. That means individuals pursuing their dreams. That pursuit is what drives our economy. Our economy is driven by freedom, not government. Freedom must be restored to build a better economy,” said Romney.
The mid-afternoon heat and humidity was affecting many of those in the crowd at the museum. Paramedics called in a SCAT bus to provide a place for those overheated supporters to cool down and receive treatment.
SCAT officials say this is often done in the case of fires too so firefighters can cool down during a fire.
Romney protestors were also among the thousands at the Ringling Museum Thursday. Some were seen walking around with a giant puppet in Romney's likeness, and holding signs criticizing the GOP nominee.
At times, the exchange between protestors and Romney supporters got a little heated.
Those ABC 7 spoke with say they came to speak out against Romney's recent comments at a private fundraiser. “A lot of us took it very personally and found concerns for someone who thinks they can be president, and can characterize half the county into one monolithic group. We're just here to say 'there is a better way'," said Sharon Wilson.
And while some protested against Romney, others were protesting the use of the Ringling Museum for Thursday's rally. Some museum donors and patrons claimed the rally was a political event -- something the museum's rental policy says it does not allow.
However, museum officials say they are allowed to make exceptions. In response to a comment posted on its Facebook page, Ringling officials said: "Ringling is not hosting or sponsoring the Mitt Romney event. The Ringling Museum is being rented through a business transaction at fair market value."
President Obama was also visiting Florida Thursday. He stopped first in Miami to take part in a forum at a Spanish-language TV station, then headed over to Tampa to speak with supporters.
A private fundraiser is scheduled for Thursday night. Tickets to the event are reportedly going for $20,000 a person.
Next week Mitt Romney will turn his focus to Ohio, with a three day bus tour.