MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - After a late-night flight from Iowa, Mitt Romney stepped off the airplane here Friday with a re-tooled stump speech in his back pocket, and hope that more than a year’s worth of organizing would help deliver him a much-needed victory in the Granite State.
Romney was bruised from a stunning loss in the Hawkeye State - territory where he invested heavily - and a strategy that was supposed to slingshot him through the early primary states on the way to winning the Republican presidential nomination. But a late surge by Mike Huckabee, a relatively unknown former Arkansas governor, prevented Romney from winning the Iowa caucuses.
In New Hampshire, he arguably faces a tougher foe: an established political figure with a maverick reputation whose campaign is rebounding at just about the right time – and John McCain happens to be the only candidate in the race who’s already won the Granite State’s presidential primary once before (in 2000).
Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, is now openly talking about change – a line that has been all but branded this cycle by Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. But Romney advisors argue that this message is not new for the former governor – it is a point he has been talking about since early spring.
“You are all catching up with us,” Ron Kaufman, one of Romney's senior advisers, said in an interview with CNN.
Kaufman added, “This election is about change.”
Specifically, Romney is painting McCain as a Washington insider, even though the Arizona senator has not been embraced by the GOP’s D.C. establishment.
"We are focusing like a laser on the fact that if you want change in Washington, the best way to do that is with outsiders, and not with people that have been part of the Washington culture like John McCain," Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Saturday.
Romney, campaigning in recent days with a large blue sign reading "Washington is Broken," has taken a more aggressive posture on the stump against McCain than he did against Huckabee in Iowa.
Campaign stop after campaign stop, Romney has hammered McCain for four straight days on immigration policy, and his lack of early support for the Bush tax cuts. He even ventured to challenge the Arizona senator on one of his long-time priorities: cutting pork-barrel spending.
The Romney campaign has attempted to paint McCain as too much of an old hand to defeat the fresh optimism of Obama, whom Romney said will likely be the Democratic nominee.
"Republicans are going to have to say, ‘Who does a better job against Barack Obama?’" said Kaufman. "Someone from the Senate, or someone from the outside? And that’s a good thing for us."
McCain shot back at Romney's criticisms during the ABC/WMUR/Facebook Republican debate Saturday, mocking the former governor as "the candidate of change," a reference to his changed positions on issues like abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
In the face of McCain's almost improbable New Hampshire comeback, Romney has saturated TV airwaves and mailboxes with contrast ads, and purchased two minutes of precious airtime on Monday night with his "closing argument" spot.
Romney's strategy, however, has been handicapped by the truncated early primary calendar.
"There's not a lot of time left, and given an extra couple of weeks, that message could be brought home even more effectively," Romney told reporters Monday in Stratham, noting that the quick turnaround between Iowa and New Hampshire was one reason he ran attack ads against McCain.
Heading into primary day, Romney trails McCain by five points among likely Republican voters in the state, according to a CNN/WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.
He needs a win, but his candidacy will not face a fatal blow if he comes in second to McCain. The former governor is also a successful businessman and has already shown a willingness to pour millions of his personal fortune into the race. And no matter what happens Tuesday night, Romney’s next priority will be his birth state of Michigan.
–CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
Deb Bunno "Ask a non-Mormon about getting a job there"
Deb, do you realized that 60-70% of SLC residents are not LDS? If it were as difficult to get a job there as a non-Mormon as you are suggesting, why would that many people live there that aren't Mormon? Wouldn't you go elsewhere? If it's that difficult to get a job there as non-LDS, people must really love the oppression, as that's the kind of climate you're describing.
As far as having a temple recommend goes: aren't we all supposed to try to have faithful marriages, perform service to those in need, sacrifice a little for the benefit of others that don't have as much as us? That's what attending the temple stresses, but those acts aren't unique to Mormons, nor temple recommend-holding Mormons. So to say that by having a temple recommend you've signed your life and free will away to Church leaders is totally false. Temple recommend holder or not, Mormons try to live by the same golden rule, 10 commandments, Christ's beatitudes like anyone else.
Amazing. Mitt Romney has poured millions of his own money into this race so far, and he's still an also-ran.
We'd be better off if he had donated that money to charity.
There is so much concern over the way, timing and reason that Romney changed his positions that should worry people. How did he come to the conclusion that he changed from pro homosexuals to anti homosexual stance? Abortion he tried to explain. I don't know how many people believe that one.
Private sector experience is nice, but it differs from being president. If there is someone that isn't helping and is doing a poor job, you can fire them. You can't do that with members of the House and Senate.
I have never seen a collection of half truths and lies promulgated in one place as I do here by Ms. Bruno and others of her ilk. I have no great love for Mitt Romney – he does a few things that personally irritate me, which frankly is petty on my part. But your mixing false statements and misrepresentation of historical events of the LDS church is a curious thing. However, as someone said long ago, referring to people like you, "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."
And so it is with you Bruno and the other rabble like you. You can yap and snarl but history moves on. Romney has an amazing constructive track record in business, the Olympics and then with the Democratic state of Massachusets. His accomplishments are unassailable. No other candidate brings his combination of positive traits, abilities and track record. No one. And that will prove out in this election. Your misstatement of facts does not make them real. They simply reveal your lack of knowledge or ability to obfuscate along with career criminals like the Clintons.
Romney's religious cult was started by a man who claimed in Journals and Discourses 7:333 "How many gods are there, I do not know. There has never been a time when there were not gods."
Also, Romney believes that God was once a man and progressed to be a god. And, further, that anyone(!) can progress to be a god.
These teachings aren't compatible with Christianity. This is not what America needs any more than we need an atheist running the country.
Take a look at McCain's personal life and you will realize how truly 'un-American' principles that guy has really got. How can you control a country if you can't control your own family? The guy should get his personal life in order before he tries to get the life of the nation back on track. A personal attack you say? The guy is a public figure – everything is public. And when running for public office, one's private life does and should matter. McCain and Guiliani look like they took a page out of Ross's character on the hit show 'Friends'. All married 3 times.
Romney is getting my vote. He's an experienced reformer, a economic genius and a leader whose knowledge and passion about the issues far exceeds his rivals.
McCain is a tired, Washington insider and war-mongerer who wants to keep us in Iraq "for 100 more years".
Gee, we can choose between a guy who inspires his fellow citizens to do better and demand better, or take a guy who was successful in puttng together the olympics?
The floor has now been open to speculation! To understand the nuts and bolts of anyone's faith, we must first understand the principles of that faith. To explain Hinduism with the Koran will not do much good. Furthermore, a Baptist minister will most definitely shed negative light (spin) on any faith that is not his own (mostly because that would mean dollar signs leaving out the door). To understand Mitt Romney's religion, we may have to begin first with those very principles that his church touts. Good families, active in community, support for those in need/underprivileged, church going, proactive (among many other positive attributes) reflect many of the characteristics of those "Mormons" that I know and have known.
Invite those young fellows on bikes and ties in, I dare you. I think they have young women too.
I can care less that this guy believes in a religion that I don't. He's the right man to lead our Country! He's proved himself to me now. He gets my vote as of yesterday after seeing him at the FoxNews Debate and McCain lost mine. I was shocked to see McCain that way.
As a former resident of Massachusetts I can assure voters that Romney has nothing but his personal agenda to push forward. He was bad for Massachusetts and he is bad for the country. If he gets the nomination there is no doubt in my mind a democrat will take the white house.
Deb, if you have a problem with Mitt's religion, just don't vote for him. Why not start to call into question Huckabee's Baptist doctrine since he is the one wearing his "Christianity on his sleeve. My guess is you are an evangelical, and therefore predisposed to attack mormonism in general despite whatever context it comes in.
This country is in a big mess. The question is who is going to clean this mess because none of these candidates can do it. America, you made a mistake in year 2000 and you never learned from your mistake of choosing a president based on his faith and promises to reach across the isle and touch someone.
America, you are doing it again..
McCain may be a war mongerer but Willard Romney is a lying, exaggerating, supporter of the pharmaceutical companies.
I hope Americans saw and heard Romney tell McCain to stop picking on the Pharmaceutical companies because they do so much good for us. HA HA
Good old expensive medicine. Yeah right, Willard. You can afford to pay $50 for a small prescription but most Americans cannot afford to do that. Use your wife's inherited money to make more money.
Did Willard Romney actually sell some of his company to china?
I would vote for Dr. Ron Paul if I thought he could win; however, I am voting for the WAR MONGERER instead of the CORPORATE MONGERER. I will vote for MdCain in spite of his support of the other WAR MONGERER Joe Lieberman.
Susan, I agree with you; however, old Willarfd will not be my choice. NO to Willard Mitt Romney NO to Willard.
I agree with Susan. We made a mistake in 2000 and repeated the same mistake in 2004. This 2008 election should be about restoring sanity to our system and working for the American people. The past 8 years was spent talking about Afghanistan, Iraq and Ben Laden and this 2008 should be spent talking about fixing our domestic problems. Too many people have lost their homes in this country within the past 8 yrs and this nightmare will get worst if we elect the wrong president again. We need our factories back, our jobs back, our schools fixed, our roads and bridges fixed and hospitals and emergency rooms decongested, our elderly being taken care of and our war veterans given the best care in the world. I need a president to talk about these issues and not Ben Laden. Finally, I expect the next leader to be strong and ready to defend this nation by any means necessary.
I am not anti-mormon, I resent the implication I am a Momon hater. I am asking reasonable questions based on the teachings and doctrines of the LDS church, questions that a voter should be able to expect an answer to. Romney has asked voters in this country to trust him. He'll have to prove he is trustworthy if he wants to continue. Can you specifically point out what I have said that you consider hateful and not a part of Mormon teaching? If not, is your accusation fair?
Why is it LDS claim Mormon missionaries are motivated by a desire to share what they believe to be true when they approach Christians, but you will not give Christians the same courtesy?
Shawn, thank you for your answers. I don't understand the difference between believing LDS church members and the LDS church will "save" the Constitution (and who does is say is going to attack it?)
AJ says "To explain Hinduism with the Koran will not do much good. Furthermore, a Baptist minister will most definitely shed negative light (spin) on any faith that is not his own (mostly because that would mean dollar signs leaving out the door). To understand Mitt Romney's religion, we may have to begin first with those very principles that his church touts. Good families, active in community, support for those in need/underprivileged, church going, proactive (among many other positive attributes) reflect many of the characteristics of those "Mormons" that I know and have known."
I'm not sure anyone quoted the Koran or Baptist doctrine to shed a negative light on LDS. Only LDS prophecy, scriputre and teachings have been quoted. Your argument is a pat answer, but doesn't deal in the truth. As I have said many times, most Mormon people are good people, there is no doubt they are active and proactive. Is this to say Chrisian's are not? Most Christian people I know are good people. Consider the many philanthropic organizations, colleges, world relief, community support, etc. To say the evangelical Christian churches are not "fruitful" would be very naïve. It's equally naive to say because Christians are good people their beliefs must be true and not an "abomination" as Mormon teaching states. Obviously, good Mormons do not make Mormonism a true and rational belief system.