Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney spent his July Fourth holiday marching in a New Hampshire parade, and backtracking statements a top adviser made about the individual mandate in the Obama health care law.
There was something for almost everybody in Wolfeboro's Independence Day parade: a local brass band, bonnet-wearing Daughters of the American Revolution, a Zumba instructor shimmying across the bed of a pickup truck, and even a Jimmy Durante impersonator, complete with prosthetic nose.
Romney, who has a house on Lake Winnipesaukee, was decidedly at ease as he marched down Wolfeboro's main street. He was joined by his wife, Ann, a pack of supporters wearing blue T-shirts and also about 20 family members, most of whom traveled the parade route in antique trolley cars. By and large, they and their family's patriarch got a warm welcome in this very Republican small town.
"We love Mitt. He's going to be great for America," says Jeff Bichard, who lives in Wolfeboro and manages a fleet of trucks for a lighting company.
Bichard is convinced Romney will invigorate the economy, and he plans to work hard to help Romney carry the state, where recent polls show the former Massachusetts governor and President Obama in a near dead heat.
"I am picking up a sign for my house," Bichard adds. "I am going to put it on my front lawn, and I'm going to get a T-shirt and I've got it on my hat. We love Mitt."
But love was by no means the only emotion at this parade. Pat Jones, a 70-year-old former postmaster, shaded her eyes and shook her head as she watched one Romney after another wave and smile from their wooden trolleys.
"Would you ask Mitt how much a loaf of bread costs, how much a gallon of gas is and how much heating oil is?" Jones asks. "He is so removed from all of this. His world is so different from the common man."
Her husband, John Paul Jones, was quick to utter the epithet that has dogged Romney for years: "He's a flip-flopper."
That's a message Democrats will be selling, and Romney gave them some fresh ammunition.
"The majority of the [Supreme] Court said it's a tax, and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken. There is no way around that. You can try and say you wished they had decided another way, but they didn't," Romney told CBS News regarding the requirement that all Americans have insurance.
The individual mandate is at the core of Obama's health insurance overhaul. It's also the linchpin of the health law Romney passed as Massachusetts governor.
Earlier this week, a top Romney adviser said Romney viewed the mandate in the federal health law the same way he saw it in the Massachusetts law, as a fee or a fine, and not a tax. Romney's remarks to CBS directly contradicted that. Romney's new stance made him sound more like the GOP leaders in Congress.
"The American people know that President Obama has broken the pledge he made; he said he wouldn't raise taxes on middle-income Americans," Romney said.
That's an accusation Romney may soon hear turned against him. But on this day, the fighting words were mostly left unsaid.
When Romney spoke at a brief rally in Wolfeboro, he never mentioned the president. He even took pains to compliment the behavior of Obama supporters he met during the parade.
"They were courteous and respectful and said, 'Good luck to you' and 'Happy Fourth of July.' This is a time for us to come together as a people," Romney said.
Romney also said he hopes to make America more like America. And while it's hard to know precisely what that means, it's a hard point to argue with on Independence Day.
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.