MARK STEYN, GUEST HOST: Today, Republican presidential Mitt Romney embarked on a non-stop media marathon as he attempts to take his message directly to the people of Iowa. And as he spoke with citizens and reporters across the Hawkeye State, his focus appeared to shift from his fellow GOP contenders to the man he hopes to face in the general election, President Obama. Here's what he had to say this morning on "Fox & Friends".
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MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My message is out there loud and clear. I want people to recognize this is an election not just about replacing a president. It's an election about the soul of America. Is the president going to turn us into an entitlement society like Europe? Or are we going to stay the kind of American nation with a merit society and opportunity society that's driven us to be the hope of earth and of course, the hope of the people of this country. I represent the latter. President Obama represents the former. I think it's a classic opportunity for the American people to make a choice.
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STEYN: Governor Romney continues to poll near the top of the field in Iowa. And his lead in the critical primary state of New Hampshire has increased in recent days.
And some are calling New Hampshire a must win race for team Romney. Here with a view from the ground in the Granite State is New Hampshire senator -- my very own senator -- and Romney campaign supporter Kelly Ayotte. Senator, great to have you with us.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R-N.H.: Great to be with you, Mark.
STEYN: You have been on a bus tour with Governor Romney in New Hampshire. He didn't win the state in 2008. What's changed this time around?
AYOTTE: Well, I was just with him yesterday campaigning in New Hampshire. He had overflow crowds and the enthusiasm for his candidacy. You can see it. He's really resonating with New Hampshire voters. He's been here a tremendous amount. He's working very hard. He's having those traditional New Hampshire town hall meetings. And so, I'm thinking when you see the broad support he has here, he's doing very well.
STEYN: This phrase he used this morning on "Fox & Friends" about the soul of America, that's what a lot of the base wants. It wants a fighter who understands the primal nature of this election in November. And there's been a kind of enthusiasm gap in terms of Governor Romney's numbers. They've kind of stayed around 22, 25 percent. You think that's changed in recent days on the ground in the Granite State, do you?
AYOTTE: Well, I can tell you that I saw the enthusiasm there. And our country can't take four more years of Barack Obama. And so, Governor Romney's message is really resonating with New Hampshire voters. They're talking about America and what needs to happen with our country, that we are a land of opportunity. And when you think about where this president has put us, diminished opportunity, fewer jobs, and all the debt that he's accumulated. And Mitt Romney is really hitting that message to New Hampshire voters, and making sure that they know that under his administration, we will have fiscal responsibility and people will get to work.
STEYN: I think folks understand the business background of the governor and his time in the private sector. They tend to get worried about other things. You're a strong pro-life candidate. You were endorsed by pro-life organizations. You said just a few months ago, isn't it great that a principled pro-life candidate can win in the Northeast. And I think it is great, but Governor Romney was kind of a little bit more equivocal on that when he ran. He said at one point I think in 2002 running for governor, I will protect and preserve a woman's right to choose. Ted Kennedy famously said I'm pro-choice, Mitt Romney is multiple choice. Are you persuaded by his conversion on the life issue?
AYOTTE: Well, I can tell you, I'm the only pro-life woman in the Senate. I take this issue very seriously. I'm the mother of two children. And I've spoken to him personally about this issue. And he has strong convictions about protecting life. And so, I certainly know that he will carry those convictions to the White House.
STEYN: And how do you feel about Romneycare, which is, again, according to some, the big millstone around his neck. You're in southern New Hampshire. A lot of general practitioners in southern New Hampshire are picking up a lot of extra customers from Massachusetts who can't get to see a primary care physician in their own state. How do you think Romneycare is going to play with the voters of New Hampshire?
AYOTTE: Well, Governor Romney has already come out and said that he would repeal Obamacare. That is the biggest issue for voters in New Hampshire is this one size fits all government mandate coming from Washington, Washington telling us what to do. And New Hampshire voters don't appreciate that.
And Governor Romney's very strong on that. As soon as he gets into office, he'll make sure that we do not fund Obamacare. And also, as we go forward with the health care act that we will work to repeal it and get it done as soon as possible. And I look forward to supporting him in that effort.
STEYN: When you look at some of the other candidates in the race, I mean, Ron Paul is in the lead in the Iowa polls. And it's the cliche now that if there's a heavy snowstorm, he's going win because his guys are motivated and are going to get out there. Is that going to destabilize the primary race in New Hampshire? Is there a Ron Paul constituency in your state?
AYOTTE: Well, certainly Ron Paul does very well in New Hampshire. I mean, we're the Live Free or Die state. In a recent poll that came out today, he was in second, but far behind Governor Romney. New Hampshire voters also want someone who's going to be strong on national security in the tradition of Ronald Reagan. And Governor Romney is very, very strong on national security knowing that we need to protect America. And I think that's going to be a central issue as well in New Hampshire voters' minds.
STEYN: And he has a home in Wolfeboro. I'm a resident in New Hampshire and after however many decades it is there, I'm still a flat lander. Is Governor Romney accepted as one of your own in the state and in Wolfeboro?
AYOTTE: Well, we're very glad to have he and Ann in Wolfeboro, but as you know, Mark, it takes a long time to become an actual resident. I was born in New Hampshire. So we take that very seriously, but we are proud to have him in Wolfeboro.
STEYN: And last time around, Wolfeboro stuck with him, but McCain-- John McCain seemed to have kind of more appeal to that crusty, cranky contrarian spirit. There's this theory that New Hampshire can't just endorse what comes out of Iowa. In a sense, to protect its brand as the first in the nation primary, it has to nudge the story on a bit. So in effect, from the point of view of New Hampshire preserving its brand, it might actually be useful if Ron Paul won Iowa and gave the chance for the Granite State to do something a little different.
AYOTTE: Well, New Hampshire voters are going to look at each candidate on their own merits regardless of what any other state does. And as you know, Mark, we take the vetting of the candidates very seriously, expect you to come here and answer the hard questions. And Mitt Romney has done that. He's had the town hall meetings. I would say, you know, very active here.
I was out with him yesterday. He's answering the questions. He's coming back to New Hampshire on Friday. So that's really important. And it won't matter what other states do. New Hampshire voters are going to make up their own minds.
STEYN: OK, and just quickly, Senator, the old cliche, I won't vote for a candidate unless I've danced with him at least four times. Have you danced with Governor Romney?
AYOTTE: I actually--you know, I have. I was on the bus with him. So I think he's a good dancer. And that's what Ann tells me, as well. And you know, that's the thing, Mark, spending a day and a half on the bus with he and Ann, they're wonderful people. They have great integrity, and will be great role models in the White House.
STEYN: OK, so you can vouch for the dancing thing. Thank you very much, Senator.
AYOTTE: I can vouch.
STEYN: Kelly Ayotte, live from New Hampshire.