PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday morning. There, Romney is a close second to Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race, according to the latest polling. But at a stop in New Hampshire Tuesday, Romney played down the importance of the early states.
Romney is in a great position in the early states that start the race for the GOP presidential nomination next week. But at a waterfront stop here in Portsmouth, he emphasized that he has the organization to go the distance even if the race for the Republican nomination drags out.
“Would I like to have the support of every state?” Romney asked rhetorically. “Absolutely, but I’m a realist. I’ll do my very best, and hope to get the delegates I need.”
To emphasize that unlike former Speaker Newt Gingrich, he has a nationwide organization, Romney made fun of Gingrich’s inability to get on the ballot in the Virginia primary. He conjured up an image from “I Love Lucy,” where Lucy gets a job at a chocolate factory but can’t keep up with the conveyor belt, so she starts eating the chocolates instead of wrapping them.
“It’s more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory,” Romney said. “So you gotta get it organized.”
The crowd in Portsmouth, a very Democratic town, was part curious Democrats intent on re-electing President Obama, part Romney supporters and part voters such as Beth Maldini. She’s trying to decide between Romney and Gingrich. She says Gingrich has a sketchy track record.
“And he might be too far to the right, and we’ve had the most success when we govern from center-right in history, so that would be Mitt Romney,” Maldini said.
At the small rally, Romney ran into Josh Denton, an Iraq war veteran who recently wrote an op-ed article in the Nashua Telegraph calling the war a dark chapter in the country’s history and in his own life. Denton asked Romney if he still supports the invasion of Iraq.
“I support what decisions were made at that time, and I think we did the right thing at that time based on what we knew at that time,” Romney said.
Denton said after walking away that he wasn’t satisfied with that answer.
“He took a different position initially on the war when he started running, and now, he’s running for office again,” Denton said. “The war is getting more unpopular, he’s now saying that they made the decision then, but now, knowing different, he wouldn’t have supported it, where before, he said ‘I would have supported it regardless that we knew there were no weapons of mass destruction.’ ”
In New Hamsphire, Romney is still in first place, way ahead of Gingrich, whose fortunes are plummeting in the state that holds the first-in-the-nation primary in two weeks. But this time four years ago, Romney was also in first place, ahead of Sen. John McCain, and yet McCain managed to pass Romney in the final days of the campaign to take the primary and, eventually, the nomination.
So, even though most of his rivals were already in Iowa, with its caucuses just six days away now, Romney was spending some extra time in New Hampshire. And before heading off for Iowa, he promised to be back in New Hampshire this weekend.