New Hampshire is a swing state this time. The latest nonpartisan poll has President Obama up by only 3 points, within the margin of error.
Mitt Romney, who won the New Hampshire primary and is well known there after his governorship and two presidential campaigns, has run the sort of race designed to attract fiscal conservatives — reducing the debt, reforming entitlements and paring back government.
In front of a crowd of 3,000, he and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were back at it. Romney explained how he’s going to bring down the debt; Ryan explained Obama’s raid on Medicare to help fund Obamacare. They also continued to hammer Obama for his “you didn’t build that” comments.
The Boston Globe suggests the appeal is working:
At least one woman brought a cheesehead, in apparent homage to the vice presidential nominee’s beloved Green Bay Packers. One questioner noted that her son was skipping work to attend the event, another said her son was skipping the first day of school (“We’re not going to clap for that,” Ryan said).
Gene Nelson, a 64-year-old retiree from Bedford, N.H., said at first he was “spooked” that Ryan would trigger a bitter divide and give Democrats ample ammunition. He said he’s been impressed with Ryan, and is optimistic that there will be a debate over how to rein in growing health care costs.
“What I’m hoping is there will be a genuine debate on the issue, and not each side trying to lambaste each other with some pie-in-the-face caricature,” Nelson said.
Donna Sweet, a 55-year-old Republican from Penacook, N.H., said she was giddy over the pick.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s an awesome pick,” Sweet said, while wearing a “Mommas for Mitt” T-shirt. “Him picking Paul Ryan, it’s like a gold star on top of the gold star he already had. He couldn’t have picked a better running mate.”
“I like Romney, and I think he’ll be a good president just on his own,” said Mark Surmeier, a 56-year-old Republican who was traveling from Mascoutah, Ill. “But with Ryan, the two work together like salt and pepper. Some things are just meant to be a pair.”
With Ryan, Romney has someone who is going to emphasize and reemphasize the debt issue. Granite State Republican insiders are euphoric, as the Boston Herald reports:
I think that Paul Ryan is likely to make a good first impression in New Hampshire,” said former New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen. He called the Romney-Ryan ticket’s policies a “good fit” for the Granite State.
“I think the message has to continue to be on the president that, ‘Look, you’ve had your chance and you didn’t make things better,’” Cullen said. “I think they have to find those voters who have buyer’s remorse — the voters who wanted Obama to succeed, were supportive of him, but aren’t happy with what he’s done so far.” . . .
New Hampshire GOP consultant Patrick Griffin countered, “I think there’s one issue right now — the economy. And that’s what Romney-Ryan is good at.”
Recent polling shows Obama and Romney running neck-and-neck in the Granite State, but that predates Romney’s Ryan nod.
“If it stays close, that doesn’t hold well for the incumbent,” Griffin said. “Obama is a nice guy. People like the president, but they’re starting to peel off the president’s personality from his policies, and his policies aren’t working.”
It is important in New Hampshire and elsewhere to also explain the growth side of the equation. Romney has a tax reform plan, intended to generate more investment, hiring and international competitiveness. He’s talked about reasonable regulation, peeling back Dodd-Frank. Romney and his advisers think they can get to 4 percent growth. It would be wise to remind audiences of not just Obama’s lack of fiscal frugality but also his tax hikes, regulatory excess and virulently anti-business rhetoric. Romney-Ryan not only needs to be the party of fiscal prudence but also of recovery and growth.