BOCA RATON, Florida (CNN) – Less than two hours before he was set to take the stage for the Republican debate Thursday night, Mitt Romney said he thought he'd be the main target.
"Tonight I predict that most of the guns will be aimed at me. I predict they’re going to be shooting shots one after the other and they’re going miss,” Romney told a Florida crowd packed into a local restaurant. “They’re going to shoot time and time again but you know, if they’re shooting at me that means I’m the guy they’re worried about and for good reason, because we are going to win Florida!”
The former Massachusetts governor appeared with some of his family. Eldest son Tagg told the audience they wouldn’t let him talk too long, so he could keep his voice for the debate.
Romney kept up his recent "change" theme, and continued his jabs at chief rival John McCain, “the only way [Washington] is going to change is by sending someone there who hasn't lived the last 25 years there."
Romney and the Arizona senator are locked in a tight race for first place in most recent Florida polls.
Riling up the crowd, Romney slipped into boxing metaphors – a favorite of politicians and pundits – saying he was going to adopt Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy. “Go ahead and just hit, hit, hit and I’ll just keep on talking, talking, talking, and the more they hit me, the more I’m able to talk and describe my vision for the future.”
– CNN Political Producer Alexander Marquardt