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Mitt Romney, Basking In the Momentum

Mitt Romney's Labor Day featured speeches, meetings, a parade, and a meet-and-greet. (By Mary Ann Chastain -- Associated Press)

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By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 4, 2007

ASHLAND, N.H., Sept. 3 -- Former senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee will grab most of the headlines this week as he enters the race for the White House, but Mitt Romney likes where he stands in the contest for the Republican nomination.

"When I started running seven months ago, I was at 5 percent in the national polls," the former Massachusetts governor said at a question-and-answer session here. "Now I won the Iowa straw poll; I'm ahead here in New Hampshire, ahead in Michigan, ahead in the Nevada."

The energetic Romney, who is shown jogging in a television ad that his campaign is running in the Granite State, put his energetic approach to work on Labor Day: two speeches, two town hall meetings, a parade and a breakfast stop to greet voters at a restaurant in Moultonborough. His exertions required several outfit changes, from tie but no jacket to jacket and tie and then, before the parade in 80-degree heat, khakis and a polo shirt. But Romney's manner never changed; whether describing his appreciation of the symbolic importance of the American flag or talking about issues such as illegal immigration, the ex-governor almost never stopped smiling.

Even at 8 a.m. in Moultonborough, a tiny town in central New Hampshire, Romney was his usual hyper-focused self as he surveyed the Village Kitchen, shaking more than a hundred hands, posing for dozens of pictures and signing a slew of autographs, all in about 30 minutes. When a man told Romney, "I like what you're saying," Romney quickly grinned and replied, "I like what you're saying, too." The candidate did not pause for an explanation, but the voter later volunteered that he liked Romney's tough stance on "illegals."

In Milford, Romney darted back and forth at what could have been a presidential convention, with Romney and Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) all leading large groups of supporters through the streets.

More than any of the other presidential campaigns, Romney's is a family affair. His wife not only attended most of the day's events but introduced her husband at one and noted the heavy involvement of the couple's five sons.

Romney was the only GOP contender in New Hampshire on Labor Day, and two of his main opponents, the undeclared Thompson and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, did not hold any events yesterday. At a news conference before the parade, Romney could not resist a few jabs at Thompson. "Why the hurry? Why not take a little longer?" he said when asked about Thompson starting his official campaign after months on the sidelines. On Thompson's decision to skip a GOP debate in New Hampshire tomorrow and instead appear on late-night television, Romney added, "I think it will boost the ratings of the Jay Leno show, but I would rather be doing well in New Hampshire."

Most of Romney's attacks, though, were not aimed at his Republican rivals. While the Democrats are increasingly beating up on one another and President Bush, the Republican candidates are unified: They cannot bash Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) enough. Noting Clinton's repeated use of the word "change" in her recent speeches, Romney had a rejoinder he repeated over and over. "Hillary Clinton would bring change, but it would be a sharp left turn."


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