MERRIMACK, N.H. – At a high school just two miles from the Massachusetts state line, former speaker of the House held a town hall meeting to highlight the differences between Mitt Romney, who he calls a “Massachusetts moderate,” and his own policies.
At the event entitled “Don’t ‘Mass Up’ New Hampshire,” Gingrich, appearing somewhat dour in the wake of his Iowa loss, went after the former Massachusetts governor, even as he declared he would not go negative. Instead, he said, he would “clarify.”
“There’s a huge difference between a ‘Massachusetts moderate’ who campaigned on a no tax increase platform and raised taxes $730 million,” said Gingrich, to a crowd that was comprised of a number of people who had moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts, presumably to escape taxes, “and a genuine Reagan conservative.”
Moreover, he said, while he promised systemic change, Romney represented business as usual.
“Governor Romney accommodated Boston a lot more than he changed it,” said Gingrich. By contrast, he said, “I am the only candidate in this race that has actually changed major policies in Washington, D.C.,” referring to the Contract with America.”
Gingrich, who has repeatedly blamed his loss in Iowa on the steady stream of negative ads run by a Super PAC supporting Romney, appealed to the audience to help him on that front, asking them “to talk to your friends and neighbors.”
“I don’t have their kind of money,” he said. “But if I have you as supporters, I can have human beings who offset ever vicious negative ads.”
The speaker dismissed the idea that Romney was a shoo-in for winning the New Hampshire primary. Most recent polls have found him with a formidable lead over the rest of the field.
“There’s a poll that just came out that said 63 percent of New Hampshire is undecided and 20 percent have said they’ll decide on the primary. Now that fits my experience,” Gingrich said.
“This state’s not like any other state – all these polls where people say Romney’s way ahead, Gingrich’s here, Huntsman’s in … that’s just people in New Hampshire pulling their leg,” he went on. “I had a guy get up in a town hall meeting yesterday who said ‘I always tell them a different name every time they call … I’m just trying to keep them off balance.’”
The Gingrich who spoke Friday was noticeably unlike the Gingrich who packed 600 people into a high school auditorium, with another 600 watching a live feed of the event from the cafeteria, at the height of his popularity last month. Then, Gingrich was far more jovial, bantering with the crowd, joking with the high schoolers attending the event. Gingrich on Friday was serious, and his voice had much more of an edge when he spoke – a toned down version of the bitter concession speech he gave the night of the Iowa caucuses, in which he attacked Romney, declined to congratulate him, and accused him of lying.