CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — After addressing a crowd of Iowans at an animal feed plant, Ann Romney handed the microphone back to her husband.
“There you go sweetie,” she said.
Her husband, a GOP presidential candidate, took the mic back and responded: “Thank you, sweetheart.”
Standing in front of bags of livestock feed during the town hall meeting, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, began the event by stressing the importance of his family and his 42 years married to his wife.
It’s a contrast to the personal history of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, now his chief rival for the Republican nomination. Gingrich has been married three times and has admitted to past infidelities.
Romney also introduced his son, Josh, at the town hall meeting inside a plant at Diamond V, an Iowa-based company.
His son told a story about his grandparents giving the Romney children their appreciation of the United States. (RELATED: Full coverage of Mitt Romney)
“They would take each of their grandchildren on a trip across the country to visit the national parks,” he said.
But in a media availability after the event, Romney wouldn’t speak to whether he thinks Gingrich has too much personal baggage to be the Republican nominee.
“I just happen to think that this election is going to ultimately come down to the question between the direction of the country and who is most capable of leading the country,” the former Massachusetts governor said.
Romney didn’t hesitate to contrast himself with Gingrich on other matters. Asked by an audience member if he supports the budget plan put forth by Republican Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, he said: “This is a place where Speaker Gingrich and I disagree. He called this right-wing social engineering.”
Romney said when Ryan’s plan came out he “applauded it as an important step,” though he emphasized that his own plan would be “a little different.” Gingrich caught flak earlier in the campaign from Republicans for criticizing the plan.
And in an apparent reference to Gingrich, the former professor, Romney made the argument that he would perform best in general-election debates against President Obama.
“I think that I would be best able to go up against the president if we’re talking about the economy in particular…because I understand the economy, not just as an academic, not just as a politician, but someone who has worked in the economy for 25 years,” he said.
Romney is in Iowa ahead of Saturday’s ABC News/Des Moines Register debate at Drake University.