Salem, New Hampshire (CNN) - Newt Gingrich held a New Hampshire town hall Friday evening just miles from the bordering state once governed by Mitt Romney, a move designed to highlight the differences between himself and the presidential frontrunner.
The town hall was aptly named "Don't 'Mass Up' New Hampshire."
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"How many of you noticed that the state line seems to have a really significant, almost mythic impact on behavior – on one side, more taxes and bigger government. On the other side, lower taxes and less bureaucracy – that they're really very different psychological mindsets," Gingrich told about 400 people at Salem High School.
That's exactly how the former House speaker is trying to frame the 2012 GOP nomination fight with Romney, who is strongly favored to win the first-in-the-nation primary state.
The longtime congressman from Georgia is laying the groundwork for an ideological battle, characterizing himself as “a Ronald Reagan conservative,” and Romney as “a Massachusetts moderate.”
"It's an attitude which starts from the American people and then reshapes the government, whereas the more moderate establishment model says well you know we have to be realistic," he said. "You couldn't actually solve problems without raising taxes, therefore how do we think of a pleasant way to sell out and raise taxes, preferably by not calling them taxes."
In the back of the high school cafeteria, Jeff Semprini of Portsmouth was behind a table with Newt stickers and t-shirts. He was also selling the t-shirt he was wearing with "Don't Ma$$ up New Hampshire" printed across his chest.
He said the purpose is not to discourage people from moving to New Hampshire.
"Just once you're here don't try to change it to make it like Massachusetts,” he said.
Gingrich said the one-time Massachusetts governor accommodated Boston a lot more than he changed it. Even though he gets criticized for being a Washington insider, the former speaker said, "I actually plan to change Washington."
The former speaker acknowledged the tough road ahead going up against well-financed Romney. “I don’t have their kind of money,” he said, but told the Salem audience enthusiastic volunteers would make the difference.
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