January 4th, 2008
10:24 AM ET
6 years ago

Romney ready for Granite State showdown with McCain


Mitt Romney boards his plane to New Hampshire Friday morning after coming in second in the Iowa caucuses.  (Photo Credit: AP) 

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (CNN) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, fresh off his stinging loss to Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses, arrived in New Hampshire at 3:30 a.m. this morning to prepare for a hasty five-day battle for the state that could make or break his candidacy.

"I let one guy slip by me, hats off to him," Romney told an early morning rally of supporters at the Portsmouth airport, referring to Huckabee. "We're not going to let that happen in New Hampshire, or anywhere else."

Romney, who spent over $7 million in Iowa and staked much his electoral success on winning the caucuses, is re-tooling for a different kind of battle in New Hampshire, where independents and fiscal conservatives, not evangelicals, are the targets of Republican candidates.

Shortly after Huckabee's victory on Thursday, reporters surrounded Romney press secretary Kevin Madden in the filing center at the Des Moines Sheraton, peppering him with questions on how the campaign will move forward.

Madden described Romney's Iowa performance as "a very competitive finish in the top two" and insisted Romney is the "best candidate to continue past just Iowa" because he can appeal to both fiscal and social conservatives in the rest of the early states.

But Madden made clear that Romney faced a different rival in the Granite State.

"We're going into a position that is going to be a battle with John McCain in New Hampshire," he said.

Madden said New Hampshire provided a "unique opportunity" for what he said is Romney's message of change, and suggested the campaign will attempt to paint chief rival Sen. John McCain as a beltway insider incapable of reforming Washington.

Although Madden denied there would be change in overall campaign strategy or tone, Romney immediately tweaked his rhetoric after his disappointment in Iowa and honed his message against McCain.

"There are some people who are going to try to convince the voters of New Hampshire and other states that all we need to do to change Washington is to have the same people go there who just change chairs," Romney told the airport rally this morning, in a clear reference to the longtime Arizona senator. Romney said that as a Washington outsider, he is better equipped to bring change to Washington.

McCain and Romney are tied for the lead among likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, according to a CNN/WMUR poll released this week.

Romney had chartered a Jet Blue airbus to make the overnight journey to New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary on Jan. 8. The front of the plane was packed with Romney staffers and volunteers wearing Romney t-shirts over their dress shirts.

The rear half of the plane was filled with weary photographers and journalists, many of whom had spent the previous week traveling with the campaign by bus and plane around Iowa.

Romney sat in the front of the plane with his family and campaign aides. With his white shirtsleeves rolled up and sporting uncharacteristically tousled hair, Romney seemed a far cry from his normally buttoned-up campaign persona.

Before take-off, he casually chatted and joked with his supporters and thanked them for their support over the plane's P.A. system.

"Let's get going, buckle up, have some food, and we'll be taking all your cameras away from you before getting off the aircraft," he joked.

- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: John McCain • Mitt Romney • New Hampshire
soundoff (176 Responses)
  1. Walt, Belton, TX

    I truly hope the mormon continues his trend and loses magnificantly in New Hampshire. If he can take the 2nd Huckster from Hope, Arkansas with him, so much the better. Godspeed, Gentlemen!!!

    January 4, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. Tom Dedham, Mass

    "Romney tried to buy victory in Iowa, and failed. Here's to his continued failure in New Hampshire. He would have been better off spending his money at Hooter's".

    Wayne, He had to spend some dough in Iowa as he was a Governor from a Northern state and needed to get some name recognition as many of the other candidates already had that.

    Maybe people like you go to Hooters as "you can't get the real thing", perhaps you can invite Bill Clinton along as that is more his "thing" than this respected family man.

    Huckleberry had his moment in the sun and now that we are out of Hicksville, he will be a non-factor. To vote for a candidate SOLEY because of his faith is asinine.

    Those that are saying Romney is done should look at the bleak Clinton campaign even more, as she already had the BUILT IN name recognition, spent MILLIONS and came in third place.

    Romney needs to stop trying to pander to everyone as unlike Hillary, the MSM will not allow for him to do that. Just tell us your REAL experience, BUSINESS strength and tout your strong belief in family (not faith, families).

    Instead of trying to please everyone, tout your PROVEN leadership and strong business sense.

    McCain and Romney in some combination COULD be the Republican ticket.

    January 4, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. David, Boca Raton

    Couldn't have happened to a more deserving flip-fopper. Hopefully McCain also trounces him in NH. The GOP does not need someone like Romney.

    January 4, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. Chris in Silicon Valley

    I think McCain will be better able to beat the Dems in the fall. The head-to-head matchup polls show this. I know Romney is the sweetheart of purist "conservative" groups like the Club for Growth & National Review, but the November elections are open to a much wider group of Americans than the primaries. GOP voters will do well to remember that.

    January 4, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  5. Ryan, Blaine WA

    The Constitution does not define the term "natural born."

    It is reasonable to interpret this as meaning someone who is a citizen by nature of their birth. Someone born inside the geographic limits of the United States is one example of a person who is a citizen by nature of their birth. Someone born outside the US, but born to US citizens, is another person who a citizen by virtue of their birth.

    There is nothing in the Constitution that is contrary to this interpretation of natural born. The Immigration and Naturalization Act seem to support this.

    The Immigration and Naturalization Act, part 301 states that the following are citizens of the United States at birth:
    (a) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;
    (c) person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;

    It is a sad day if we don't consider the children born to US service members to be full and natural born citizens because they happened to be born while their parents were serving the United States overseas.

    January 4, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  6. ben

    If Huck gets the nominee the Demarcates with destroy us. And guess who they want to win????? yup Hucklberry.

    I'm glad we are moving out of Iowa were people vote on record not on what church you attend.

    Go mitt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 4, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. Joshua Steimle

    60% of Republican primary voters in Iowa were self-declared evangelicals, who would be hard pressed to vote for a Mormon. The fact Romney got 24% of the vote is actually pretty impressive, although obviously he wanted more. If it weren't an Baptist preacher vs. a Mormon in Iowa, there's no way Huckabee would have come out so far ahead there. But in New Hampshire it's a different story and while Romney may have to battle McCain for it, he certainly doesn't need to worry about Huckabee there, nor does he have to worry about Huckabee in Florida, New York, California, or many of the other large states. Romney's greatest challenge from Huckabee will come from the southern states where once again, there are many evangelicals.

    January 4, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. John, Ft. Lauderdale FL

    Romney has executive leadership, economic wisdom, and the political insight that our great nation needs at this time. McCain’s political contribution has diluted and weakened with his time. Huckabee is an articulate and passionate speaker yet he is politically empty. For GOP Romney is the one who has proven wisdom and results.

    January 4, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. Lev Klinemann, Redondo Beach CA

    If it wasn't for his war stance McCain could actually be semi-OK. All the other republicans are just freaks. None of them have a clue about the world, none, except McCain.

    Don't get me wrong, I would never, ever vote for McCain, but I don't think I would have to set my hair on fire and run down the street if McCain becomes president.

    January 4, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  10. MediaJunkie, Washington, DC

    I don't think Romney will be our next president, and he's certainly not a shoo-in for the nomination. Remember the criticism of John Kerry's flip-flopping? Romney makes Kerry look good. Mitt opposes abortion now, but he supported it when he ran for senator. Mitt opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, but supported a civil union law as governor. Mitt became a lifetime NRA member in 2006, but as governor approved a law banning assault weapons. The guy is entitled to change his mind, but he reeks of pandering.

    January 4, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  11. Rick - Syracuse, NY

    Romney isn't a qualified candidate. Its very simple. None of the republicans are. This country needs positive moves... not another right wing nut-job republican. bush has clearly shown us the republican party can't be trusted. This country can't withstand the damage caused by them. "Lets spend lots and lots of money but cut taxes!" Oh yes that's fiscal responsibility. We need someone to lead this country, not destroy it.

    January 4, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. Gary

    Mitt Romney says "We let a guy slip by, it won't happen again". He still does not get it, the Iowa voters saw Mitt Romney and the Iowa voters heard Mitt Romney, and basically they did not like what they saw or heart. No one slipped by, Romney did it to himself.

    January 4, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  13. Jean truman

    John McCain is an opportunist similar to Rudy Giuliani. Both candidates have contributed nothing, except McCain's military services, which was appreciated in due time. McCain, since 2000 Presidential Elections, flip flopped 365 x 7 times. At the age of 72, McCain belongs to the past. He thinks the White house is the most convenient place to retire at the expense of the tax payers. Somebody must remind McCain that we are living in the 21 st Century. While Giuliani, the corrupt mayor of New York, as a husband and father, he is disliked by Catholics, Italians, Evangelicals, The Right and The Left, Women, surely no women will forget how Giuliani treated his former wifes and especially his own children. Giuliani's trusted right-hand man, Bernard, has been charged and soon we will see him in the court of justice. 9/11 victim families have lot of questions that Giuliani must answer. Both, McCain and Giuliani have very questionable health problems. Both haven't managed an organization, such as, a government institution or a business outfit. Both dandidate's resume is worthless. If both candidates are planning to learn the job of the presidency, while training on the job, both are too old to learn and govern our dynamic and the mightiest country on the globe. Both candidates have NO VISION and the future of our fabulous and beautiful country.
    On thursday night, we have seen the real and the most dynamic young and well educated presidential candidate, namely, Senator BARAK OBAMA. His speach was a good lesson to George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the old couple, namely, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, to name a few. Any candidate who wants to govern America must first learn, how to address to "the People of America".
    We have to wait and see the results of the coming preliminaries. However, Barak Obama's solid foundation and his path towards the White House has been installed.
    We salute and congratulate Senator Obama.

    January 4, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  14. Eli, Boston, MA

    I just hope enough people read the Concord Monitor's "Romney should not be the next president" column before they head to the polls. This guy has all the integrity of a Hilton sister, and will pander to whomever he has to in order to get votes. He is a pure politician: a fake, groomed image with no soul or real concrete beliefs. If you're a Republican voting in this primary, I sure feel bad for you. Seeing as the GOP has no anti-war candidate (except for Ron Paul, and well, let's be serious about Paul's chances: Howard Stern has a better chance of winning a write-in campaign), the likelihood of getting elected without addressing this fundamental issue becomes slimmer by the second. It doesn't matter to me who the Republicans vote for, as long as they avoid that Mormon fraud and Mr. 9/11.

    January 4, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. Dan, TX

    Steve, you've written this before, but McCain is a natural born citizen. He was born on a US base to two United States citizens.

    January 4, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. Seattle, WA

    Walt in TX – how silly your comment reflects on the Christian community and ignorant men. How would the same comment about Obama being black or Clinton being a woman sit with the average American or congragants in your local church? If bigrotry in that form is OK about Mormons then you and all those like you just don't get it as a Christian man – see 1 Corinthians 13:11. When comments like yours surface it only means fear – and we know who the author of fear is.

    January 4, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  17. John, Burlington MA

    Romney didn't 'lose' in IA. 3 out of the last 4 presidents didn't 'win' in IA. All IA really tells America is just how bigoted evangelical voters can be. Vote for someone based on their religion? It's certainly their right, but it's not a very good hiring practice. Had the event been held in some other state (like somewhere outside the MidWest and South), Huckabee wouldn't have gotten any media time and would've pulled only in the single digits. I look forward to seeing Huckabee tank it in NH. And I also look forward to seeing Romney beat McCain. He gathered twice the amounts vs McCain in IA and he'll beat him in NH too. Then who'll be the 'new frontrunner'?

    January 4, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  18. Richard, St. Paul, MN

    I think it's terrifying how the scary evangelical nutjobs came out to vote last night. These people are the ones who ushered in 'Seven Years of Darkness' with Bush. Romney, however, should accept his defeat with grace and treat himself to a new toupee. Maybe Donald Trump could give him the name of a good hair replacement store?

    January 4, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  19. Vicki Hampton Hanceville Alabama

    It is time for Romney to pick up his bag of dirty little tricks and all the lies not to mention all the negative attack ads and go back home if home will even have him. I feel sorry for the congregation that has stood behind him and now look at all embarrassment that he has caused them with all of this crap and I do mean crap that he has done. He is a joke and the people have spoken and said that they did not want his type politics and what does he do? He gives a statement that this is the first inning of a 50 inning ballgame even the press are looking at each other because he is such a fruit loop. No one wants his dirty politics and his lies and he just can't except that because of that big fat ego that matches that big fat head. He is P.O.ed because he can't by an election like he buys affection and he is P.O.ed because he can't have his way. He needs to give it up already and so do these "don't want to accept defeat" supporters because the people have spoken and that is how it is and there is no changing that.

    January 4, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  20. Richard, Ewing, NJ

    Yestersday Iowa result is interesting. McCain cannot ask for anything better from the COP causcus. Romney was soundly defeated (not by 1-2 points) and McCain tied into thrid, a much stronger showing for someone who has no TV ads and against ethanol subsidies. Since McCain already has a small lead over Romney before the Iowa causus, McCain will have an easier time defeating Romney. Or will he? One single problem for a McCain victory is that McCain support from NH independents is extremely strong compared to Romney, but independent turnout is very unreliable. Obama's victory over Clinton yestersday may convince NH independent to vote in the Democratic primary (instead of the Republican one). This is actually Romney's hope. He need to hope for a lower voter turnout. Still, all in all, McCain should beat Romney and probably beat him really bad too.

    Don't forget one thing. There will be a GOP NH debate on Jan5th. It will be heavily watched and analyzed. Romney has made alot of real enemy now, not opponent against him based on strategy, but really people who dislike him. Neither Guiliani, McCain nor Huckabee like Romney from a personal level, so they will pound him just for the huck of it. Despite all the random talk about McCain being angry, he makes friend. There is no doubt that if Thompson drop out, he will endorse McCain. There is no doubt if Guiliani has to drop out, he will also endorse McCain (Remember he actually said that he would have endorsed McCain had he not been running on a TV debate?) Huckabee in every single state has said the single person he admires the most is McCain, guess who he will endose? Romney simply made too many enemies.

    January 4, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  21. Rafi, NY NY

    Steve, you're right that the Consitution doesn't define "natural born," but that doesn't mean its definition is implied in the Constitution. Which means a definition in any US law is perfectly legit. It could still be challenged in a lawsuit, as anything can, but I don't think any court, much less the Supreme Court, would even take up the issue because it's already considered settled in a legal sense.

    Think of it this way: How many of the country's first several presidents were born on U.S. soil? Well, none, because it was such a young country at the time. If there hasn't been a change to the law since the 1790s, why wasn't this an issue back then?

    This is not an up-in-the-air issue. It's a settled matter. And this isn't the only part of the Constitution that was left purposely vague specifically so that it could be interpreted later by accompanying laws.

    January 4, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  22. Mark McLain

    On the Republican side, it will be interesting to see who finishes in THIRD place. A new poll that came out suggests that Giuliani's support (3rd place in the polling before Iowa) is very weak. In addition, Ron Paul (currently in 4th) is gaining support. I think the NH Republicans will be supporting their candidate based entirely on different issues/reasons than they did in Iowa.

    January 4, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  23. James

    Romney has proven that he has the ability to get our economy moving. He can make the U.S Dollar, once again a leading currency in the world. He has proven that he could turn Massachussetts economy around during his time as Governer. He turned the Utah Winter Olympics from disaster, to the first profitable Winter Olympics. He doesn't play the religious card as Huckabee does, but he is very religious, has accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour, and hold strong conservative values. It would be good for people to get over their ignorance and prejudice of the Mormon religion, and recognize all of the good that he could do for our country.

    January 4, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. Steve Franks

    All of the presidental candidates have no experience in foreign policy. No hands-on, no on the job training knowledge to deal with the fact that the world is running out of oil and 60% of our imported oil comes from the Middle East. The fact that we are in Iraq and the Middle East to secure our supply of oil, to keep the wheels of our capitalistic industry turning. Wake-up Americans, and elect our next president who has lived in the Middle East for at least ten plus years, a candidate with experience and knowledge from the world to govern the world. Who is this person? Where do we find him? Definitely not the present candidates. The American people should manage their own destiny by advertising on the web and newspapers for the best candidate with 10 – 25 years of experience in the Middle East. Otherwise, the United States is pursuing the same path as the illiterate Roman Empire, destruction from within.

    January 4, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Lisa

    Is Romney feeding them baloney in New Hampshire?

    January 4, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
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