Romney, Ryan Have Opening Act In N.H., Where Race Is Tight

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Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, and his vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, appear at a campaign rally Monday in Manchester N.H. (AP)
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, and his vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, appear at a campaign rally Monday in Manchester N.H. (AP)

Two days after President Obama campaigned here, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan reunited for an appearance in New Hampshire on Monday. It gave voters in this tightly contested state their first glimpse of Romney’s new running mate.

The New Ticket In N.H.

Voters here know Romney. This was a return engagement for him; it was the 100th town hall meeting he’d held in the state since starting his run for the presidency this time around.

“Gosh, I feel like I’m almost a New Hampshire resident,” Romney told the crowd. “I come here and… it would save me some tax dollars, I think.”

This was the opening of the Romney-Ryan show in New Hampshire, a chance for Romney to show off his campaign’s latest star. The Wisconsin congressman promised that, if elected, he and Romney will get things done.

“And the way we’re going to do this is we’re going to elect leadership at the 11th hour," Ryan said, laughing with the crowd as a clock tower bell tolled 11 a.m. “Cue the bells.”

Ryan accused Obama of politicizing the war in Afghanistan.

“The president, in my opinion, has made decisions that are more political in nature than military in nature: a drawdown occurring in the middle of a fighting season when we’re still giving our military the same mission,” Ryan said. “We don’t want to do something that would put them in jeopardy. We want them to fulfill the mission in the safest way possible, and that, to me, means you make decisions based on what’s right for the country, for our national security.”

Romney and Ryan’s appearance here at Saint Anselm College drew hundreds of people. Many left before the program ended, but that might have been because the program went on longer than they had expected.

Most gave Ryan rave reviews.

"Liked Paul Ryan," said one woman as she walked away.

“I love him," said Ginger Mattsom, a campaign volunteer in Keene.

“Awesome," said a man as he walked away.

A Tight Race

Romney is making New Hampshire a tight race for Obama. Four years ago, Obama beat John McCain here by nine points. But Romney has managed showings in the polls this summer that show him, at worst, four points behind, and at best tied with the president.

Romney adviser Tom Rath says that’s because Obama is now having to run on his record.

“The argument of change is very appealing,” Rath said. “This time, the shoe is on the other foot. It’s this president who’s defending, has to defend, not his promise but his performance. That’s a very different circumstance.”

Rath suspects more people are still undecided than the polls show. People like Kevin Fleming, who came to the rally undecided.

“I really wasn’t as impressed with Paul Ryan as I thought I’d be,” Fleming said.

Fleming saw a little bit of a meanness in Ryan.

“Ryan was a little harsh,” Fleming said. “Is he suggesting to us that the military folk are not getting what they need from the Obama administration? I’m not aware of that, and perhaps they need to talk about that more.”

Fleming voted for Obama four years ago. He came to hear Ryan particularly. He came away saying Romney and Ryan have not captured him in any way, and he thinks he’s going to go with President Obama.

Romney needs to win over people who voted for Obama four years ago. If Kevin Fleming is an indication, the Romney-Ryan team have their work cut out for them.

This post was updated with the Morning Edition feature.

This article was originally published on August 20, 2012.

This program aired on August 20, 2012.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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