DERRY, N.H. — Mitt Romney says he can appeal to Tea Partiers, even though activists and groups aligned with the movement are stressing that they need to defeat him in 2012.
“I think I line up pretty well with the Tea Party,” he said in response to a question from The Daily Caller after touring the Derry Feed and Supply store. “They want to see smaller government. So do I.”
But not everyone associated with the movement see Romney as one of them.
Joe Miller, a former U.S. Senate candidate in Alaska and a Tea Party darling, is now running a “Stop Romney” campaign, for example. And FreedomWorks, a national organization run by former Rep. Dick Armey, has not hidden the fact that the activists they deal with do not want to see Romney in the White House. Leaders there have said they worry that Tea Partiers won’t show up to the polls in the general election if Romney is the Republican nominee.
“I believe in redemption, but at some point, you sort of give up,” Matt Kibbe, the president of the Tea Party-aligned group, FreedomWorks, recently said in an interview. “And we’ve given up on Mitt Romney.”
After making his first debate appearance of the cycle Monday night in the Granite State, Romney spent Tuesday greeting customers at local diners, asking them what they thought of the debate and the Boston Bruins game. He even showed his jokester side at Mary Ann’s diner, jumping and letting out a screech at one point by acting like a waitress he was taking a photo with pinched him.
“I would never do that,” the waitress was reported as saying. Romney explained that he “was just teasing.”
Romney also spent Tuesday visiting local businesses, including Derry Feed and Supply, asking the owners if times have gotten any better since President Obama took office.
Speaking with several dozen reporters afterward, Romney didn’t hide the fact that he thought the debate went well for him — he went virtually unscathed from his Republican opponents who passed on using the occasion to attack him over the health-care law passed in Massachusetts when he was governor. Conservative critics have said that law has similar components to the law pushed by President Obama.
“We were respectful of everyone,” Romney said of his GOP rivals. “We aimed our rhetoric at the president where it was deserved.”
On the topic of health-care, Romney dismissed the notion that he’s weak on healthcare, saying “I think all of [the Republican candidates] have the same view in regards to what we should do for health-care going forward.”
“We all agree Obamacare is the wrong direction for the country,” he said. “And if people want to look at what’s happening in Massachusetts, I’m not running for governor of Massachsuetts, I’m running for president of the United States. And my plan’s for the nation.”