ABINGDON, Va. — Click here for video of Romney's speech
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defended coal and natural gas Friday before a crowd of thousands gathered in deep Southwest Virginia.
“My number one priority is to take full advantage of our energy resources — coal, gas, oil and (other resources),” Romney said. “I don’t believe in putting coal underground forever. Within eight years, I believe America should be energy independent.”
Throughout the speech, Romney touched on several items mentioned during his earlier debate with President Barack Obama. Romney appeared to be particularly moved when he asked for active and military veterans in the crowd to raise their hands. A large number of individuals in crowd — estimated in the thousands — raised their hands.
Southwest Virginia was well represented at the rally with Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell, Delegate Anne B. Crockett Stark, R-Wythe, and U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., all helping to introduce Romney.
A small number of protesters at the rally were overshadowed by the thousands of supporters. However, someone dressed up as Big Bird from the Sesame Street television show was visible outside — apparently in protest of proposed cuts to PBS advocated by Romney.
Two airplanes also were seen flying high above with competing banners. One said, “Mitt lies, Big Bird dies.” The other said “Virginia coal counts on Mitt Romney.”
More details to come.