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. Steve Blaine Washington

    When John McCain was born in 1936 at the Coco Solo Air Base in the Panama Canal Zone, the Canal Zone was US territory – just as every embassy we have around the world . The fact that it was leased property has no bearing on this.
    Since his parents were both US citizens and he was born at a US military installtion in US territory, he always has been andalways will be a US citizen.
    January 4, 2008 10:59 am ET -Yes but not a natural born citizen
    Steve, you've already posted this.

    McCain IS a natural born citizen.

    I was also board abroad to a US citizen and I'm a natural citizen.

    My son was born in Japan and is ALSO a natural citizen.

    What exactly is your motive in your post? You are a citizen but not a natural born citizen as required by constitution to hold office of Presidency.
    Good Point (Steve Blaine Washington) but any candidate that brings it up will be eaten alive because non of them have given as much to this country as McCain. I'm neither republican or a McCain supporter but I'd be tempted to punch anyone in the face that even brought this up….

    Look up the references I gave in the article. Anyone not born in a particluar State is not a natural born citizen as required to be a president. They are citizens but not a natural born citizens entitled to become President. Look up the law.

    January 4, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  2. Butch Dillon

    Romney's confidence is commendable, but it seems largely to have been produced through the lenses of his rose colored glasses. Huckabee didn't simply slip by Romney, he blew by Romney in a major storm of tornado dust. And he did it in a beat up VW. Huckabee may not be the competition in NH, but McCain is surely prepared for the battle and he is already positioned to apply the same beating to Romney that Huckabee did in Iowa. Once again expect to see Romney lie about himself and McCain as he continues to wield the dirty stick in the campaign. And once again, expect him to be trounced.

    January 4, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. Marcia Falk

    Barack Obama won last night's caucus not because he was part black,
    nor part white, but because he is good candidate. I was sorry to hear a
    lady newscaster on CNN this noon say "Can America handle a black
    president"? Now that is just stirring up controversy and drawing
    attention to his race. Please let him stand on his merits.

    January 4, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. Chris

    If the best the Republicans can do is Gomer Pyle and
    the guy from Fireball 5000, they are doomed.

    I think Romney's puppet strings are showing.

    Go Ron Paul.

    January 4, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. Mindy Chatsworth, California

    Romney got thumped in Iowa after spending about 8 million dollars to try to buy the win. Maybe he has learned now that he has to actually go out and earn the votes of Americans and he can start by being honest and truthful. Stop the pandering and the cliches and start talking to people and telling them what you will do to solve the serious problems that face this country.

    My guess is Romney doesn't have a clue about how to bring about substantive change in this country. That's why he falls back on the same old rhetoric. I expect him to come out attacking McCain for all it's worth as he tries to regain his momentum in New Hampshire. Even if McCain does well in New Hampshire, I don't see him winning the nomination. He's too old and has been burned by his strong support for the president's surge in Iraq and that pathetic attempt to solve the immigration problem. He has alienated a lot of Republicans.

    Huckabee won't win in New Hampshire, either. I think his fifteen minutes of fame are just about up. He simply doesn't have the experience or knowledge to govern as president. Folksy charm and bible stories will only get you so far.

    Meanwhile, Giuliani is running his stealth campaign by avoiding Iowa completely and not campaigning very much in New Hampshire, where he is trailing badly. He is courting votes in states like Florida and California, hoping to devise an alternate strategy to win the nomination. I don't see the conservatives going with a pro-abortion, three times married man who cheated on his wife while his mistress was living in Gracie mansion.

    Good luck to the Republican voters who have to sort through this bunch. Thank goodness I am a Democrat.

    January 4, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It should be interesting to see what kind of negative ads (nothing else to call them) that Romney runs against McCain. I am not supporting McCain, but he is a respectable candidate in most ways.

    To Garrett: Ron Paul won't make it much farther. I doubt that he will get many more delgates; some more but not enough to make the nomination. He may claim that he is for a "constitution size government," but the constitution allows Congress to make laws. It is for the judicial branch to reivew the laws and see if they could be allowed under the constitution.

    January 4, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. Leo, Waco, TX

    I know that Mitt Romney isn't perfect (what candidate is?), but I feel he's the most qualified Republican in the field now who has a chance at beating the Dems. I find it sad that Iowan Reps would select a candidate who has so much trouble remembering/following world events. Is this the best we can do?

    January 4, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Clarke Gordon

    After all that has been said on CNN concerning the IOWA caucases, a headline announcement was made "Can America handle a black president". What does that mean? If America elects an African American as President, the intent is clear.

    America is stronger than that statement implies. The statement implies that the color of skin would make the "Black" President something America could not handle. Shame on CNN for making such a statement. The statement is the same as asking can Black America handle a white president. The statement is so very insensitive and provocative towards creating negative thinking. I hope and pray that American climb above these statements and ask can America be better than it has been in the past?

    January 4, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Chris, Middletown, CT

    If we wanted a flip flopper who changes positions frequently...(for abortion rights....against abortion rights.....for gay rights...against gay rights....) – we would election Hillary (for licensing illegal aliens...against licensing illegal aliens....for the war in Iraq....against the war in Iraq)

    The country is in dire need of a moderate.....Giuliani is the only social liberal fiscal conservative we have running....support him (70% of the population describe themselves as moderate) – the Democrats believe all the rhetoric they have been spoon fed....to them "Republicans are evil" – we need to be the first party to endorse a moderate...the Democrats have embraced all left wing (well...and a socialist) I cannot support the right wing of the party any longer (well...unless they are dumb enough to run Hillary....then I will)

    January 4, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. Lisa

    Mitt Romney never lets facts get in the way of political self-interest, even when the facts involve a decorated Iraq war veteran seeking a pardon.
    At age 13, Anthony Circosta shot a classmate in the shoulder with a BB gun. He pleaded guilty in juvenile court to a felony assault and was sentenced to 364 days of probation. From then on, Circosta's life was apparently exemplary. He enlisted in the Army National Guard as a medic, served as a volunteer fireman, and earned a college degree in criminal justice. In 2002, he served as a National Guard medic at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which Romney headed. Deployed to Iraq in 2004, Circosta was promoted to first lieutenant and awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service.
    Circosta needed a gun permit in Massachusetts to gain promotion as a security guard and pursue a career as a police officer. But, to get the permit, Circosta first needed to have his record cleared of a childhood felony. He told the pardon advisory board the childhood incident was not his proudest moment, "but it happened." He moved his life beyond it.
    Twice, the Massachusetts clemency board recommended a pardon. Twice, then-Governor Romney declined to grant it.

    I guess Romney never made a mistake – not even as a child. He is like the tin man – missing a heart.

    January 4, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. Angel, Los Angeles of Anaheim

    OK so Iowa voted. They did OK by making Obama a choice, but on the other side, they decided Huckleberry was the choice??? OK, well GW is the same cartoon the Huck would be, Do they really believe that we want another cartoon in the Oval Office? Let's get back to reality. Obama is the man.

    January 4, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Daniel, NY

    Two new polls are out this morning - both taken pre-Iowa - and they have a very close race on the GOP side between McCain and Romney. Huckabee is far behind, let's see how far he can rise.

    January 4, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Karen Tyler

    I trusted Iowa to vote with their minds on the Republican side, but many voted for spite! What you spend to get the word out is not relevant to the content of your message or your qualifications.

    Voting for spite is self-defeating behavior and Iowa Republicans shot themselves in the foot last night.

    January 4, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. Miss Ng

    I TOTALLY agree with Joe White's comments. I am a conservative Christian, but I will not let others use religion to manipulate me. I have a brain in my head and I will use it to analyze things. I won't let Opra who is just a host of a talking show nor a person who used to be a pastor tuse religion to blind my eyes and shut down my brain.

    Huckabee is using religion to manipulate people. He does not have a brain to be a president. He gives the illegal kids scholarships when those kids' parents did not pay their dues. They do not pay tax, and I have to pay more than 15,000 grants for tax per year. I have to support those ILLEGAL. Huckabee does NOT have any right how to use the tax payers money for ILLEGAL kids. He rewards them for entering the United States of America illegal and for breaking the law.

    Religion is very important but being a president is not ALL ABOUT religion, it's about how that person can fix the country such as bring jobs back to the americans, deport the illegal immigrants, make people follow the rules and laws that we have in the US....

    Mitt Romney is the one with the brain in his head, and I am personally believe that he can be a GREAT PRESIDENT. I do not like his religion but I have respect for what he believes. I also have respect for his point of view about religion as well. Look at president Bush, he is a christian and then what happens to the country and the american. Can anyone tell?

    Joe White January 4, 2008 10:57 am ET

    Huckabee's win last night is by far the worst move evangelicals could have possibly done.

    Huckabee: "What people want is somebody they work with, not somebody who is their boss who could fire them."

    Oh really – do I want the idiot sitting next to me at work leading me? Not a chance, the reason why Romney is fiscally the most successful candidate is because he is the brightest candidate. Huckabee is merely a smooth talker, and nothing else.

    He's also a phoney. Yeah right he expects us to believe he is innocent of his negative personal shots at Romney's religion.

    "And many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord…did we not prophesy in thy name and do great works in thy name?
    And in that day I will say unto to them, Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity – I never knew you."

    Huckabee is a wolf pretending in sheep's clothing. I'm a conservative Christian who supports either McCain or Romney for their Republican principles – and I won't vote for Huckster if he's the nominee. Republicans everywhere should take note – there are millions like me.

    January 4, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  15. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Dr. Ron Paul is the only Republican I'll support. I am tired to death with the Religious Right, with their hateful, intolerant and peculiar form of Christianity and with the neo-cons, who believe in empire-building and never-ending war. Let's get back to real conservatism, a respect for our Constitution and a government and citizenry that values individual liberty.

    January 4, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  16. Tim

    Just a random thought –

    Why are the American taxpayers paying the salaries of the active Senators (about $165k annually) who are running for president? They are spending way more time worrying about some hopeless dream than they are doing what they were elected do to.

    It should be considered to make it a law to have to resign or take a leave of absence in order to pursue a candidacy to a higher office.

    I, along with most other Americans, work long and hard for my pay and keep seeing more and more taxes taken out and used for pointless causes.

    Change is definately what is needed!

    January 4, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. Lane Andrew

    Mitt is the only one who will win a national election for the GOP. So what if Huckabee wins Iowa. Iowa is totally unrepresenative of the entire country (likewise NH). Let's give it until Super Tuesday and see who's still standing.

    January 4, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  18. Kyle

    I'm still not sure about who to vote for among the Republicans. Among the Democrats, I'm a bit more concerned about Obama than I am about Clinton. If Clinton wins, at least she'll think twice about the situation in Iraq. Both Obama and Edwards have been so out front about wanting to get out of Iraq that they pretty much have left themselves no choice but to leave, even if events on the ground continue to improve there.

    iven that events on the ground have certainly improved in the last few months, it would be sad to see Obama or Edwards engage in a hasty retreat without any real vision of how to improve American stature in the Middle East. Believe me, if they hate us now for being in Iraq, they will hate us even more for leaving Iraq in shambles. Why is it that the democrats won't paint the true picture of the mess that Iraq will become if America leaves early. Winning the White House is not worth that much! You can win the White House this election cycle and lose it in the next one for actually carrying out the plan to exit Iraq early. Why do these politicians have to be so short-sighted. Take the long view. As a nation, we have to stop running this war as if it's American Idol. We would never have won the Civil War if a twenty-four hour news cycle had been badgering President Lincoln every step of the way. How many generals did he go through before he found the right one? Quite a few! We must be the most impatient people on earth. Perhaps it's the effect of two-hour Hollywood films where everthing gets resolved in two hours. It's not real life. I trust McCain with tough decisions more than any of the Democrats. As for the other Republicans, I'm still waiting to see how they plan on dealing with terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Obama's road to change does not change all that; it's primarily a road of retreat that will only undercut the gains our troops have been making over there since the surge.

    January 4, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. Kevin, Kansas City

    Romney's going down again!

    January 4, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  20. Undecided

    It seems to me that our country was founded on religious freedom. Those who bash candidates based solely on their religious affiliation are very"UNAMERICAN."
    A few weeks ago when there was the internet "scare" that Obama was muslim, the continued attacks from Huckabee on Romney for being mormon, all of which true or not is not what should be used to determine who is most capable of leading our country. The most imnportant things to consider are the issues, NOT the candidates religious affiliation or personal belief that are independent from politiacl views and leadership ability. I hope America can be better than that.

    As for me, I'm still undecided. (Not a Huckabee or Clinton fan.)

    January 4, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  21. Liz

    The differences between Romney and McCain are many.

    One of them is campaign funding. Romney uses his own money. McCain depends on the supporters. No big corporations would try to buy him out.

    The second is illegal immigration. McCain is more forgiving to illegal aliens.

    Big corporations claim that illegals provide cheap labor and help the companies with competitiveness. This is a short-term view. Illegals don't have to pay for health insurance, FICA, income taxes, even car insurances, while they can receive just about every welfare benefits paid by taxpayers. That is why illegals can afford to live in the U.S. at the wage level they are paid. Big corporations benefit the most on taxpayers' money. This drives rich few and poor many. This will undermine our democracy as our middle class diminishes. If you hope the expanding middle class in China will help their democracy, you will be disappointed. You have no idea the difference between a democracy and a communist regime.

    The third is that McCain can start his commander-in-chief job from Day One.

    McCain is a comeback kid no matter what circumstances he was thrown into.
    He is a natural fighter and survivor. He suffered campaign problems during the summer and many thought he was done for then. Look at him now! Huckabee is not electable. Romney is very worried about McCain. You can see it in his eyes. I don't mind Romney in the White House, but I prefer McCain much more so for his conviction, character and integrity. I can trust him with our country.


    January 4, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. Ted R., Derry

    I see the Romney campaign-bots are here posting their canned slogans about what a great businessman Mitt is and how he, personally, one man saved the Olympics for the world! Big deal! We here in New Hampshire do know a phoney when we see one and that's why I'll be voting for ANYONE but Mitt Romney! Why would we vote for someone who couldn't get elected dog catcher now in the state he was once governor. Says a lot about this egomaniac!

    January 4, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Jared

    Props to those who "have a brain in their head". And those of you who have one sentence exclamations... I guess you're necessary to make the world go 'round?

    I to am Christian and I think there are some major questions about a lot of religions out there – including my own... but this race is not about finding the answers to "those questions". It's about who has the best record, who sticks to their beliefs and who honors their word.

    By the way – the only thing CNN is good for is this blog – bias may give them more viewers – but who can enjoy working for a company that encourages such uneducated statements just to get a reaction out of its customers?

    GO MITT!

    January 4, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  24. Terry, El Paso, TX

    I was surprised that Clinton did not win Iowa, not because I support her but because I thought she had it in the bag. I was not surprised that Huckabee won. However, the Republican party is not one homogenized group. There are:

    1. Corporatists, who contribute money to candidates who will give large corporations tax breaks, repeal regulations, and ignore it when they break the law. These people do not care about flag burning, gay marriage, sexually explicit plots on TV shows, vulger lyrics in popular music, etc. In fact, they are the ones who produce explicit TV shows, vulgar lyrics, and sick video games for our children. They will turn against Huckabee because his social agenda is meaningless to them and his integrity might make him difficult to handle. Huckabee can expect well-financed "swift-boat" campaigns that will challenge his character and history, and corporate money will be behind it.

    2. Social Conservatives, mostly evangelicals, who are concerned mostly about sexuality, propriety, and the presence of their religious symbols in public places. They are politically naive and have been shamelessly used by Corporatists. They vote for a flag-burning amendment but what they get is lower wages and fewer benefits. They vote against gay marriage, but their jobs get outsourced.

    3. Racists and segregationists, mostly southerners, who prefer local white control to federal civil rights laws and use anti-federal arguments dishonestly. The facts are they do not care which level of government enforces segregation as long as some level does.

    4. Goldwater Conservatives, who believe in local economies, local customs, local markets, regional food, neighbors working with neighbors. They do not realize that the global economy is destroying small businesses and local customs. They are sincere but very naive.

    5. Libertarians, the dingbat fringe. About 5% of the electorate, but very sincere in their beliefs.

    I predict that the corporatists will gut the Huckabee campaign. A lot of sleazy stuff is about to come out about Huckabee. Almost all of it will be lies or ridiculous exaggeration, but 25% of the electorate will believe anything outrageous or scandalous. To them, a good story is much more interesting than a true story.

    January 4, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. Matt

    Go Mitt ! ! ! Romney 08!!!

    January 4, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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