ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Mitt Romney said Monday that promises made by President Barack Obama have not helped the American people, and the former presidential candidate predicted that change is coming to Washington, D.C.
Romney was in Anchorage to rally support for Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan and Gov. Sean Parnell. Romney's visit comes after Sullivan spent the weekend holding rallies with Texas senator and tea party favorite Ted Cruz.
A long line formed in the cold outside the airline hangar where Monday's event was held. A clutch of protesters gathered nearby, holding signs with statements such as "Alaska women don't fit in binders," a riff on a Romney comment from 2012 that he had "binders full of women" as candidates for cabinet positions when he was Massachusetts governor.
But the focus of the event was on Sullivan, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in a race that could help decide control of the Senate. Republicans need to pick up six seats to take the chamber and feel confident about their chances here.
Begich, who on Saturday said he felt he had the momentum and sensed a victory, spent the lead-up to the election shaking as many hands as possible, holding events in the Anchorage area and in Fairbanks.
The number of early votes cast has topped the number in 2010, when there was another high-profile Senate race, and 2012, when there was a presidential election.
Romney, meanwhile, told the crowd Monday that Sullivan represents change in Washington, adding that with Republicans in charge the nation will secure its borders, adopt policies that help people get out of poverty and improve the federal health care law.
Promises made by Obama have not been kept, Romney said. "But when we have a new direction in Washington, with Dan Sullivan there and Lisa Murkowski there, you're going to see the promises that are made by our party kept," he said.
Murkowski is Alaska's senior senator, and in line to take over the chairmanship of the Senate energy committee if Republicans take over.
In other races, voters Tuesday will decide whether to legalize recreational use of marijuana, raise the minimum wage and require legislative approval of the Pebble Mine project.
The governor's race features Parnell and Republican-turned-independent Bill Walker.
Also, Rep. Don Young, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. House, faces a challenge from Democratic political upstart Forrest Dunbar.
Sarah Palin, a former Alaska governor, sent out an email touting Walker and his Democratic running mate, Byron Mallott, as conservatives. Parnell was Palin's lieutenant governor and took over for her when she resigned in 2009. She backed tea party favorite Joe Miller in the U.S. Senate primary and didn't mention Sullivan in the email.
Young was noticeably absent from Monday's rally, which included Murkowski. A spokesman said Young, who recently apologized for comments he made about suicide, was holding private constituent meetings Monday and had a scheduling conflict.
Murkowski was a prominent figure in this year's Senate race after calling on Begich to stop running ads touting their level of cooperation and how often they vote together.
Begich spokesman Max Croes said a bipartisan delegation that includes Begich has been successful in opening the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and Arctic Ocean to oil and gas development while continuing to fight for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He said that compares to when Alaska had two Republican senators, a Republican congressman and a Republican president for years and the refuge did not get opened.
Jane Angvik, who was one of the protesters, said Begich knows the issues and listens to Alaskans. She said he has earned re-election.
Chris Birch, a former Anchorage Assembly member, said he considers Sullivan the more competent and capable candidate. He said he found the characterization of Sullivan as an outsider — a major theme in the race — offensive since many Alaskans come from somewhere else. Sullivan's roots in the state date to the 1990s.