Another Perfectly Competent Performance
10:44 AM, Jan 7, 2012 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
It’s a big, professional operation: a stage, lighting, giant American flag for a backdrop, risers for the camera, and plenty of room for press. (Actually, the press had about as much space reserved for them as the general public did.) And while there are only a handful of Romney supporters there when I arrive, over the course of the next hour, the space fills out with probably a little north of 350 people. There’s lots of extra room, and nobody is bumping elbows, but it is still a pretty good crowd of people eager to see Romney.
After all, Granite Staters haven’t exactly overdosed on seeing the candidate. This is Romney’s fifth event in New Hampshire since the Iowa caucuses. (By contrast, Rick Santorum held six events yesterday.) But elbow grease isn’t dispositive in politics and Romney seems to be holding firm in the polls here, sitting on a 20-point lead over Ron Paul. His campaign is doing so well that they’ve reached the point where sometimes they don’t even try to fake it.
Yesterday, one of Romney’s surrogates, state senator Gary Lambert, told the press, “Rather than go on with the blah, blah, blah. I’d like to get right to the point. Which is—Look, we know how this movie is going to end. Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee. . . . This is not about picking your favorite, it’s not about picking someone you like. It’s not about picking someone even with your own beliefs and principles. This is about picking a person that can beat Barack Obama, period.”
But today they’re really trying. Romney has South Carolina governor Nikki Haley on stage with him and she gives a fine introduction, noting how difficult Obama, his National Labor Relations Board, and Eric Holder’s Justice Department, have made life for South Carolinians. She says that on Tuesday, “We don’t just need a win in New Hampshire, we need a landslide in New Hampshire!”
For his part, Romney opens his remarks by immediately tamping down expectations, saying that people shouldn’t trust polls and that the race is still fluid. He then marches through a slightly elongated form of his stump speech, opening (like The Godfather) with lines such as “I love this country.”
Romney points out that, as a candidate, Obama held a rally four years ago in this same gym, where he promised big things. And he delivered, Romney says, “Big things. Bad things. Expensive things.” It’s a nice formulation and he uses it as he ticks off a list of Obama’s horribles: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, deficits, the stimulus. He talks about his vision of America as a “merit society” and then gets to the elegiacal portion of his speech: