Confident Romney continues shift to center

Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., center, waves before introducing Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, second from left, and his wife Ann, left, during a campaign rally, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
AP Photo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. An optimistic Mitt Romney told a Florida audience Sunday that after he wins the Sunshine State and takes back the White House, he will do "everything in (his) power" to unite the American people, including working across the aisle with Democrats in Congress.

Speaking under dark rain clouds in south-central Florida, Romney rallied a crowd of more than 9,000 people, telling them that the "the sunshine is comin' through...for this country."

The candidate has drawn some of his largest audiences to date in the days following his strong debate performance against President Obama. He told the audience that he had "enjoyed" the experience, while getting in a dig at Obama.

"You all had the chance to hear his answers, or his non-answers," Romney said as the crowd roared its approval. "Now, of course, days later we are hearing his excuses, and next January we'll be watching him leave the White House for the last time."

Continuing a theme from the Wednesday night debate, Romney presented himself as a pragmatic, bipartisan alternative to the president.

"I commit to you this, I will do everything in my power to draw on that greatness of the American people," Romney said, with his wife Ann by his side. "To make us more united as a people. To have us pull together. To reach across the aisle and find good Democrats in the House and the Senate that care deeply about America, just as I do. I know they're there."

The former Massachusetts governor's debate performance has been widely viewed as a rhetorical move from the right to the center of the political spectrum. He spoke positively about his Massachusetts health care plan, championed Medicare, said some regulations are necessary in a free market, vowed to work with Democrats, and said that while he would not raise taxes on poor and middle income Americans, he would also not reduce the tax burden on the wealthiest Americans.

Romney's pledges to "reach across the aisle" echo the promises made by George W. Bush and President Obama in their 2000 and 2008 campaigns, respectively. Both presidents found the goal hard to reach in a polarized capital. Romney's debate statements about having worked with Democrats in Massachusetts, meanwhile, have been challenged.

While conceding that Romney came out on top at the first of three presidential debates, the Obama campaign has focused its post-debate attacks on Romney's truthfulness.

On "Face the Nation," top Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod offered Romney mock praise for a "Gantry-esque performance" -- a reference to Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis's book about an unethical evangelist -- and accused him of "serially rewriting history."

"It was completely unrooted in fact," Axelrod said of Romney's turn on the debate stage. "It was completely unrooted in the position he's taken before, and he spent 90 minutes trying to undo two years of campaigning."

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    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.