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Mitt Romney at Daytona 500: ‘I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners’

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Mitt Romney took most of Sunday off the Michigan campaign trail to jet to Florida to attend the Daytona 500. The Republican presidential candidate had hoped his appearance there would remind voters here that he is a car enthusiast. Terry Renna AP Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, walks with driver Brian Vickers, left, on Sunday as they pass a race car sponsored by Romney's rival Rick Santorum before the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.

But the race was postponed because of rain, and Romney made another extemporaneous remark that underscored the caricature that his political opponents are pushing of the former Massachusetts governor as a wealthy, out-of-touch elitist.

Asked by an Associated Press reporter as he was greeting NASCAR fans whether he follows the sport, Romney said: “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners.”

The AP posted audio of the exchange, which you can listen to below:

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Democratic operatives quickly seized on Romney’s comment, lighting up Twitter on Sunday night with fictitious quotes poking fun at Romney.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse tweeted: “I don’t know people who fish but I know people who own yachts.” And DNC spokeswoman Melanie Roussell tweeted: “Asked if he will watch the Oscars, Mitt Romney said: ‘I don’t get to watch movies, but my friends own theaters.’ ”

A Romney campaign spokesman did not dispute Romney’s quote at the Daytona 500, but said it came while he and the Associated Press reporter were talking about cars. He said Romney is a NASCAR fan — he campaigned at a NASCAR race last summer in New Hampshire — and was trying only to distinguish himself from more hard-core fans.

During Sunday’s visit, Romney spent time with team owner Richard Childress, a friend, and was impressed by the technology at his facility.

“I go back to the 1960s, back then when you had guys like Bobby Allison driving, they were driving stock cars,” Romney said, according to the Associated Press. “Maybe they’d taken out the passenger seat and the back seat so they can put in a restraint system and a fire extinguisher. But now these cars really are built from the group up entirely by the teams themselves.”

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