Romney Countdown -297 Days to New Hampshire Primary

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

New Hampshire is Mitt Romney’s launch-pad, and he’s going back there on Friday to meet the launch crew, check out the organization and practice his take-off drills.

Technically, he’s going to Manchester to speak at a “Summit on Spending and Jobs Creation” hosted by the New Hampshire chapter of Americans For Prosperity. But he needs the group and its fans to help blast him out of the state towards the critical Florida primary.

He’s got some progress reports to tout as well, a recent poll of the state’s voters showed him ahead of all other GOP candidates in a head-to-head with Obama The mid-April poll by The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College showed him beating Obama by 8 points. He did much better his GOP rivals, Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty, who lost to Obama by 8 points and 16 points, respectively. Back in January, Romney also won an informal straw poll among 276 local GOP activists. He got 35 percent of a split field.

But there are a few teething problems. One of Romney’s 2008 state boosters, Wally Stickney defected to Horizon PAC, the Utah-based rocket being readied for Jon Huntsman. Nobody knows yet if Huntsman’s project will take-off or prove a dud.

Romney is running a cautious, low-profile campaign. He’s avoiding most media, partly to distance himself from Iowa and South Carolina where he is expected to do poorly, and partly to focus his resources on other states.

He’s picking a few issues to champion, and is aiming his criticism at the President, not his fellow Republicans.

On April 20, he used the “The Mark Larson Show,” on San Diego’s KCBQ Radio to urge Obama to meet with financial-forecast at Standard & Poor’s, which recently warned about the country’s future credit ratings. “I did that when I was Governor [of Massachusetts]; I met with the ratings agencies and talked about our future and tried to instill confidence in our future because, look, how they rate our debt and how they rate our future as a nation will affect the interest costs that we end up paying and will affect homeowners and borrowers all over the country.” New Hampshire has a growing number of commuters from Massachusetts, so that connection comes up often when Romney is talking to Granite State voters.

On April 21, he used an op-ed in National Review to criticize Obama’s generalship of the Libyan conflict. “What we are watching in real time is another example of mission creep and mission muddle… The president owes it to the American people and Congress to immediately explain his new Libya mission and its strategic rationale.” That op-ed include hat-tip to former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who is quoted as saying that Obama has set himself up for “massive strategic failure.” Bolton has his own supporters, especially in Florida, who might be useful in the crowded state primary.

On April 13, Romney went to Vegas and bet on the small but significant Jewish GOP community by giving a pro-Israel, pro-business speech. That group is mostly liberal on social issues, but also mostly pro-Israel, often ready to donate and often able to bring along some of the many upper-income voters who look down on the GOPs populist core. The event was held a casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, a GOP super-donor, whose deputies in 2008 fanned rumors that he would donate up to$100 million to help the GOP candidate that year. The money never did get spent, partly because the recession hit the gambling industry hard, but perhaps also because Adelson’s international gambling business is vulnerable to regulators in the United States and overseas.

The strategy seems to be working. Romney also did well against Obama in ABC/Washington Post poll, published April 19. He lost the head-to-head poll to Obama by 4 points, 45 percent to 49 percent, but pulled ahead of Obama among independents by five points, or 49 to 44 percent. That was better than Huckabee, who lost the head-to-head by only 6 points and won independents by three points, 48 to 45 percent. The next closet GOP candidates lost to Obama by 12 points.

Back in New Hampshire, Romney will use the AFP’s Summit on Spending and Jobs Creation to talk about spending and jobs creation, said a staff aide. “He’s been very focused on jobs and economics,” the aide said. He’ll be speaking alongside Pawlenty, former Sen. Rick Santorum and popular businessman Herman Cain.