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Romney backers focused on economy, jobs and money

She doesn't care about Mitt Romney's taxes - except she wished she paid the same 15 percent. She doesn't care that he is a multi-millionaire.

She doesn't care about Republican rivals calling Romney all kinds of names on the campaign trail.

Donna Beford, 54, of Fort Mill, with six grown kids and still working in real estate trying to make a buck, grew up in Connecticut and lived in Massachusetts, where Romney was governor and balanced budgets.

After Romney spoke to an overflow crowd at Winthrop University on Wednesday, Beford spoke what might be the most important words of this Republican primary election scrimmage.

"Economy, capitalism, jobs," said Beford. "I'm a moderate. Mitt Romney is the only candidate to fix the economy, and he knows that capitalism, the free market, will do it. He's the only one."

Beford called out "Go Mitt!" 13 times during Romney's speech Wednesday at Winthrop.

The crowd - so packed into McBryde Hall that they spilled over into another room - came because the economy in South Carolina, by almost any measure, stinks. Romney spoke almost solely about the economy - that's what people wanted to hear.

"Mitt Romney has business experience that other candidates just do not have," said Beford. "That is what matters in this race."

Donald Rodgers, former chief of the Catawba Indian Nation in eastern York County, said Romney has the business and government experience to get the country back on track.

"Look at what he has done in business - his record speaks for itself," Rodgers said after the speech.

Even before the speech started, the businessman who ran a state as a governor was what these supporters wanted to talk about.

"The guy has the look, the experience, of a president," said Lane Taylor of Fort Mill, who owns a courier business. "I look at Romney and I see Ronald Reagan. He's confident, presidential. He can win.

"These other candidates, I just don't see it."

In conservative York County in conservative South Carolina, few - if any - mentioned Romney's Mormon religious beliefs, either.

"The economy is the issue," said Scott Slagle, a Fort Mill landscaping business owner.

At the Romney rally, there was no talk about the social issues and other tenets of conservatism in Republican politics that had so dominated other candidates' visits in the past week.

Romney made no mention about social issues in his speech, and few in the crowd talked about it before, during or after the speech. For Romney people, what matters is money - the ability to make it in a free market.

Banker Kyle Curtis of Rock Hill said the economy was why he came to the speech and the economy is why he supports Romney.

"Mr. Romney impressed me today - he talked about the things that we need to do in the economy," Curtis said. "He has the business experience. He sees the big picture."

Curtis and Stephanie O'Rourke, a friend who is a stay-at-home mother, even pulled their kids out of school to attend the rally.

O'Rourke said she hasn't made up her mind about Saturday's primary vote, but she said the issues that matter to her, the ones that will eventually help her choose a candidate, is simple: "Jobs and the economy."

Nobody showed up to hear Romney speak in Rock Hill looking for screams and shouts. Supporters put it bluntly about why they went to hear him speak and why they back him - Romney is the only candidate who can re-ignite the American economy and put people back to work.

The rally was not zany. The rally was not wild. The rally was not fervent.

But that is not who Romney is or who his supporters are.

The rally was a mix of young and old, white collar and blue collar, supporters who are worried about purses and wallets.

Bill Thornton of Rock Hill, who worked in food industry sales all his life and is still at it at 69, said Romney's economic record separates him from the other candidates - and Thornton attended two of the other candidates' functions last week to hear for himself.

Thornton and his wife, Ginnina, who immigrated from El Salvador more than 20 years ago, said after the event in a quiet talk about the candidates that the economy is what matters - and Romney spoke in his speech to the subject that matters most.

The Thorntons did not come to Romney's rally to jump around or scream. They came to listen and to see if they found their guy.

They have.

"Getting the country back on track, in jobs and business, is by far the most important issue in this race," said Thornton. "Romney is the only one who can beat President Obama. That's the goal."

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