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"Romney sees a bright future"
By GAIL OBER
Mitt Romney is an optimist...that's what he told a crowd of 200 in Ashland Monday morning when the Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor brought his campaign to the geographic center of the state.
"I have a strong conviction that America's future will be every bit as bright as it has been in the days of our past," said Romney, sounding and looking every bit the front-runner the most recent New Hampshire polls claim him to be.
Romney described his campaign as a great movement swelling across America. According to pollster.com, he enjoys 31.7 percent of the New Hampshire Republican vote, beating former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani by 17 points and soon-to-be candidate Fred Thompson of Tennessee by nearly 20 points. Nationally, Romney hovers around third, with the most recent Gallup Poll showing him about 14 points behind Giuliani.
"A strong America is the best ally peace has ever known," said Romney, explaining that he would strengthen homes, the economy and the military because strength is the heart of Republican values. "If you want to overcome challenges, you strengthen the American people."
Mentioning Democratic contenders Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards by name, Romney spoke against their positions on immigration, health care and change.
"The wrong answer is amnesty," said Romney, adding that there should be no special pathway to residency or citizenship for those who came here illegally. Saying he would "turn off the magnets" that attract illegals to the country, he said he would punish businesses that hire them and end the idea of "sanctuary cities."
Disagreeing with Democrats who he said want the government to run health care, Romney said he does not want the same people who ran the Katrina relief program to run health care.
He said Democrats want to raise taxes, while he would create a savings program for the middle class that would allow interest, capital gains, and dividends to accumulate, tax-free, unlike that proposed by Edwards.
But mostly Romney spoke of change and how he believes it is inevitable.
"There is a convergence, almost a perfect storm, of things happening," said Romney, citing the growth of China and India, the threat of radical Islam and the belief that America spends too much and is too dependent on foreign oil.
"I think [Clinton] would bring us change. But change to the left," he said. "She looks to the Europe of old. [She looks] to big government, big taxes, big brother," said Romney to applause.
He said a Romney Administration would bring people together who are smarter than he is and who disagree with him.
"You want debate and vigorous disagreement," he said, telling the audience his 25 years of business experience has taught him how to bring divergent personalities together to work toward common goals.
"The three [Democratic] front-runners have never managed anything. Not even a corner store," he said, adding that Edwards running a successful law practice and suing people does not count. "The presidency is not an internship."
Romney did earn some new supporters. Before his speech, Gail and Josh Nesbitt of Bridgewater said they liked his positions on most issues, especially immigration and the war on terror, but had yet to make up their mind.
"I think so," said Gail Nesbitt when asked after the speech if Romney earned her support. "There are several others I like, but I think he'll rise above."
New Hampton Rep. Francine Wendelboe said she will remain neutral but applauded Romney for campaigning "New Hampshire-style."
"This is what Fred Thompson doesn't understand," said the powerful house Republican who believes Romney resonated well. "I'll bet nearly everyone here will end up voting for him."
Wendelboe said she would like to see all the Republican candidates take the pledge to keep New Hampshire's primary first.
"The candidates, the Republican National Committee, they have no choice. It's New Hampshire law," she said.
Romney and his wife, Ann, are vacationing at their home in Wolfeboro for two weeks. Prior to coming to Ashland, Romney greeted voters in Moultonborough and was headed to Concord for an additional appearance.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
In the News