BEDFORD, N.H. — While most of the rest of the Republican field focuses like a laser on the upcoming Jan. 3 GOP caucus in Iowa, Mitt Romney on Wednesday is launching a three-day bus tour of New Hampshire, where he has pinned his hopes on an early, convincing primary win.
Romney and campaign aides will travel in a 45-foot-long bus painted with the slogan “Believe in America,” and the words “Conservative. Businessman. Leader.” His itinerary includes 10 stops and along the way he will be joined by local political celebrities, including former White House Chief of Staff and Gov. John Sununu, Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., former Sen. Judd Gregg, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and tea party activist Jennifer Horn.
In Bedford on Tuesday night, Romney gave a speech that previewed his message on the road, focusing not on his Republican rivals but on President Obama.
“Once we thought ‘entitlement’ meant that Americans were entitled to the privilege of trying to succeed in the greatest country in the world. Americans fought and died to earn and protect that entitlement,” Romney said at a town-hall-style meeting. “But today, the new entitlement battle is over the size of the check you get from Washington. President Barack Obama has reversed [President] John Kennedy’s call for sacrifice. He would have Americans ask, ‘What can the country do for you?’ ”
He accused Obama of “building a government so large that feeding it will have to consume a greater and greater share of your paycheck,” and added, “Does anybody in America believe they are better off today than four years ago? … I am tired of a president who wakes up every day, looks out across America, and is proud to announce, ‘It could be worse.’ ”
The Obama reelection campaign returned the fire in a statement, which said in part, “Gov. Romney claims to want to level the playing field to create opportunity, but all his policies do is stack the deck against the middle class. He has repackaged the same policies that caused the economic crisis and led to the insecurity middle class families have been facing.”
A CBS News poll published Tuesday showed Romney tied with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for the GOP nomination. But as Gingrich’s momentum has slowed in other, early-voting-state polls, Romney has begun to ignore Gingrich to focus on a would-be general-election matchup with Obama.
Gingrich and the other Republicans are concentrating their efforts this week in Iowa, except for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who like Romney, has banked on New Hampshire’s more moderate and independent Republican voters.