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. Geh

    Well, McCain is not the man. McCain, you truely are a work. Being a Vietnam Vet myself you can't imagine how much respect I had for your service and the hardships you endured for all of us. But, I just can't imagine your take on the Iraq War. You of all people know that it was because of the lack of backing by the politicians that the military's hands were tied that the Vietnam War was dragged on and on and on and eventually came to the conclusion that it did. Why you (especially you) and others in government did not learned from the past and get behind Bush to "win" is beyond me. If you had of, it would be a thing in the past already. I for one will not vote for you, just because of this one fact, you and all your buddies in government are brain dead. You have not learned from the past and because of this you have allowed and promoted Iraq to become another Vietnam drawn out affair. It is because of you that I and most others have lost all faith in Bush. I want a President who will get the backing of all other elected officials during his administration, if you can't first follow, then how the hell can you lead.

    Huckabee talks good, but I'm afraid he just won't be able to implement his ideas, again because of the type of people we have in our government. In fact, it beats the heck out of me how anyone can do anything as president with the idiots we seem to put in office to help him run the country.

    January 4, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |


    January 4, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Kathy

    Romney found out what I knew long ago, money does NOT buy votes in Iowa. And Romney running a negative campaign does not get votes in Iowa.
    Huckabee better do something about his kids, a son who hangs puppies for amusement will go over about as well as a "Free Mike Vick" program.

    January 4, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Doug

    Not true Gary, the Iowa voters were focused on one thing on the Republican side, Huckabee's an evangelical, so of course, he's the go to guy. What they don't realize is that though he may be a wonderful church going Christian (though he sure doesn't act like one), his stance on fiscal policy and foreign knowledge are horrible. If he gets the nomination, then the republicans have lost, which would be justice in this case. I pray this doesn't happen.

    January 4, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. Sam

    Romney or McCain...

    whoever wins, we lose. They are both big proponents of the Bush doctrine, so I could really care less who comes out on top. Huckabee is no better, but at least he has the brains to distance himself from King George.

    January 4, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. Adrian, Salt Lake City, Utah

    The lesson from Iowa is not that Romney can't buy an election. Romney had overwhelming support in Iowa from non-evangelicals. The lesson from Iowa is that no amount of money can convince evangelicals that a Mormon could possibly be the best candidate for the White House. Take the previous comment from "Walt" from Texas as a classic example.

    It's not that money can't buy an election, the lesson is that no amount of money can buy an even playing field for a Mormon. That's kind of alienating message for the GOP to be sending 6 million Mormons in America, but it is an message that many Evangelicals love to give. Just read the message boards, and it is clear. I read so many negative comments about the doctrines of my Mormon faith from Evangelicals, many distortions of the truth, yet I would not consider attacking their faith.

    The key to winning an election is clearly "likeability". If one is not likable, a "change of position" becomes a "flip-flop", a comparison with another candidate becomes "negative adverising", etc. The lesson from Iowa is that for many Evangelicals, a key component of the GOP, that a Mormon cannot be likable by definition, no matter how much money is spent trying to get an even playing field.

    It's time to evaluate the close connection that Mormons seem to feel with the GOP. Perhaps Mormons, such as myself, should consider the independent vote, or try to go with the Democrats, and foster policies within that party that would reduce the amount of abortions women choose to have (further tax incentives for abortions, adoption counseling for those considering abortion, etc.).

    January 4, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  7. john

    wow, i just saw the results, its about what i expected. sorry but Romney tried and didn't do so well, its actually kinda sad he lost to the chuckahuckabeast combo.

    January 4, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Andrew Smith, Haslett, MI

    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.

    Way to call it Wayne. Romney was crushed and rightfully so. I hope he's ready for McCain in New Hampshire because he will be tougher, but the sleeper is Ron Paul, waiting to knock Fred out of the race and back to Law & Order. New Hampshire likes fiscal conservatives and independent thinkers, eh? Well who's more fiscally conservative than a guy who never votes for taxes, never takes government-paid junkets, never votes for a Congressional pay raise, doesn't participate in the Congressional pension program, returns a part of his staff budget to the treasury every year, wants to end the IRS and cut spending back to the same levels we had 10 years ago.

    Ron Paul, that's who! Get ready Romney, we're comin' for ya!

    January 4, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. Andy

    John McCain seems the obvious choice for me this year. Of all the candidates, he is the true bi-partisan one. If he had any more integrity, he would overflow. But then again, that is the beauty of this country. Let's forget who is qualified to run this country, rather, who is the most popular. That makes no sense to me. Let's quit trying to divide this country, and pick someone wh deserves it. John McCain is my choice.

    January 4, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  10. Adrian, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Correction: in my previous comment "(further tax incentives for abortions, adoption counseling for those considering abortion, etc.)." should read "(further tax incentives for adoption, adoption counseling for those considering abortion, etc.)."

    January 4, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. Patrick, Cary IL

    This election is coming down to 'which candidate is likely to hurt me the least'. I'm sad to say it, but that's how I feel.

    Both Huckabee and Romney seem to have somewhat changing stances on some issues. While I don't disagree with positioning, I'm offended that they think nobody would notice (nobody like me, I guess).

    Hillary, well, it's hard to believe her when her lips are moving. Obama, I think he means well, but makes me feel like he's trying to learn the violin while already onstage – with equally tragic results.

    Edwards, well he's a Nilla wafer among a box of tasty cookies. Inoffensive, goes with everything, yet lacks a certain penache.

    About the only candidate who has been honest, so near as I can tell, is Dennis Kucinich, and nobody believes he's remotely electable. Sigh......

    January 4, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Hate what is evil, hold to what is good – Vote Barack Obama!

    January 4, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  13. Jen Cedar Falls, IA

    I know some Romney supporters that could not get into the caucus due to the traffic and congestion from thousands more than expected showing up to vote. Trust me, I was there last night, it was absolutely incredible! Several cars had to turn away, my family walked a mile from where we parked through snow and ice, in 10 degree weather to get there.

    What we Iowan's did for the country last night was nothing less than impressive.

    We are intelligent, we are informed, we care and we show up to vote! You can cry all you want about us going first.

    January 4, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Chris

    Both Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are excellent candidates. This election is all about the economy, which makes Romney the obvious best choice for the GOP. However, given Romney's disconnect and Huckabee's good standing with the religious right , it makes perfect sense to campaign as a team.

    This election cycle should go to the Democrats, but because they decided to throw two controversial minority candidates at us, Republicans now have a legitimate shot at winning.

    Romney/Huckabee '08

    January 4, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. Jared

    Last night, I read through many documented statements made by each candidate. For the most part, I was confused about the stance each one of them has been labeled to take... and the media just makes it worse. At one point a candidate says one thing. Then, at another point, it almost sounds like they're contradicting themself. And I'm talking about all candidates... not just one.

    In the end, this is going to be mostly a judge of character for me. It's not about who says what anymore – because alot of what everyone is saying, is BS... just because someone else told them what to say. More important is how they address the people that look up to them – and even how they support those they consider in a less fortunate position. It will come down to a discernment of character for me, in the end.

    That being said, it is hard for any of us to look past our own biases – whether based on religion, beliefs, incompetence, etc. Just figure out one thing – and then stick to it... which candidate can find the hope in you? Let's unite under our principles and the spirit of the law – and may the best man win.

    January 4, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. Mimi Stewart

    Please take your right to vote seriously this is not a time for AMERICANS to elect a President based on his/her warm and fuzzy speechess..Our Nation is need of restoration and we must act responsibly and select the candidate wisely.

    January 4, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  17. Steve

    Yes, Mitt, go.

    As far away as possible....

    January 4, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. Lorraine

    It is one freakin' vote, but from the amount of hype and spin that's been devoted to it, you'd think Election Day in November for the rest of the US may as well be canceled. Take a breath, get a grip, give your heads a shake. And oh, yeah, there's some other stuff going on in the world (you remember the world, right, that's everywhere on Earth that is not the US) right now, too, or had you noticed?

    January 4, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Grey, Austin TX

    Its not a good idea for a Ken-doll to go to "battle" with a man who fought the good fight in Vietnam, and has the scars to prove it. I'd pick different metaphors if I were Romney.

    January 4, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Kyle

    I am a huge Romney Supporter but he has to focus on what he can do as a President. He is so much more viable of candiate than Huckabee why waste his time battling with someone of Huckabees Caliber he is only helping Huckabee by running contrast ads.
    Romney has an incredible Resume that can help fix a lot of the problems in Washington and the country. I think he should highlight his ability to get keep the US Economy moving and then to get it to lead the world again. He can certainly spotlight Immigration, the War In Iraq but what will serve him best is the economy. I don't think people question his family values Mormons have always been known as family orientated Church. He needs to quit defending his past statements on ProLife and Alternative lifestyles and move forward with whay he does best. I want a candiate that is not going to just talk about what they are going to do but how they are going to get it done.
    OBAMA was AMAZING last night in his victory speech, Absouloutley Inspiring, although he needs to detail how he will do all of the things he hihglighted he would change just like Romney needs to.
    Saying something needs to be changed is one thing making it happen is another. He is off to a great start. If he is sincere in his desire to bring the country together regaurdless of party affilliation and if he can detail his plan like how to get out of Iraq by winning and not just pulling out then he will get my vote. Keep in mind I am a huge Romney supporter.
    If Obama and Romney don't win their Parties nomination then I think they should run on an independent ticket together. Contrasting views on several major items but the dream of one and the brains of the other could be a dream team.

    January 4, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Gina

    Mitt Romney has proved that he's just another politician. Smile,
    slick hair, slick message and stab the other guy in the back.
    No thanks, we don't need politics as usual. We like Mike!!!

    January 4, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. Kurt

    Does any candidate that thinks that Romney runs a dirty campaign really have thick enough skin to run this country? Every ad that I've seen from Romney that others have labeled as "dirty" have simply stated where Romney's views and previous actions differ from his opponents. Is that not what people want – to know how the candidates differ?! Or should we just vote blindly without any knowledge of what candidates stand for?

    Grow up America!

    January 4, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. Mario

    Go Mitt!!

    January 4, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. Mark

    I cannot fathom that people (including the press) are saying that Gov. Romney ran a negative campaign. Some say the most negative they have ever seen? Hello! Most of these comments come from people outside of Iowa. He ran a campaign based on the issues. Yes, he did attack Huckabee's record. Why is that out of bounds? He spoke eloquently about what he would do and highlighted the record of the competition. Obviously the "conservative Christians" did not buy it. Now he'll move on to hard hitting NH and see how it plays there. Those of you who don't trust Gov. Romney are deceived. He is an honest man who will bring great success to our country. If you don't think that, hey, it's America. Think what you want. Please, don't criticize him for highlighting other's records. That is very relative to the debate. Last word: Iowa didn't pick Reagan either!

    Go MITT!

    January 4, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. Jon

    I am very disappointed as I sit and watch CNN today, "Can America handle a black president?" Are you kidding me? Why does our mainstream media choose to target issues that are irrelevant? Can't something occur, like the need for change, without race being an issue? STOP CREATING FALSE ISSUES TO TRY AND EVADE THE REAL ISSUES AT HAND!!

    January 4, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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