By Laura McCrystal
On a return trip yesterday to the Stratham farm where he kicked off his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney announced a focus on helping small-town America and ending an era of big government.
His new message is simple, the former Massachusetts governor told supporters gathered at Scamman Farm: "The greatest days of America are ahead."
The event marked the start of Romney's "Every Town Counts" bus tour through six swing states. He last visited the farm, owned by former New Hampshire House speaker Doug Scamman and his wife, Stella, when he announced his candidacy for president last June.
"Of course, over the past year it's become clear that good things begin here," Romney said. "So we're back today with a few more friends and closer to the goal."
Appearing with his wife, Ann, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte yesterday, Romney said in a 20-minute speech that his bus tour will reach out to small-town voters. Those towns and their residents, he said, are the "backbone of America." The bus will next travel through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.
"The vision, the values, the character and the can-do spirit that you find in our small towns have made America great," Romney said. "In these places you also find a special sense of community and a deep commitment to our country. . . . Every town counts because the families who have lost a job, faced a foreclosure or been forced to spend the money they were saving for college just to make ends meet are not statistics. They are our fellow Americans, and it's time to care for them, recognize them as such."
Romney's Stratham event came one day after both Romney and President Obama spoke about the economy in Ohio. The president will travel to New Hampshire for an event in Strafford County on June 25, an Obama campaign official said yesterday. He last visited New Hampshire in March.
At Scamman Farm, Romney criticized Obama's campaign speech in Ohio on Thursday for being "very long" and offering "four more years of the same." Government spending and regulations are ruining small town dreams, he said.
"Before they were pioneers, Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers looked out into the dark night and up to the clear sky, imagining great inventions that would change the world," Romney said. "And no, Mr. President, they were not dreaming of government loans."
Obama is not giving "a fair shot" to small towns or middle class Americans, Romney said, because he is adding to government debt. Romney promised to boost free enterprise, create jobs and provide growth for the middle class.
If he is elected president, Romney said, "the era of big government will really be over."
"There was a time not so long ago when each of us could walk a little taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else in the world shared: We're Americans," he said. "That meant something different to each of us, but it meant something special to all of us. We knew it without question. So did the world. Those days are coming back."
After briefly greeting supporters, Romney waved goodbye to the flag-waving crowd and boarded his bus, plastered with the "every town counts" slogan. He spent yesterday afternoon at an ice cream social in Milford, and will continue his tour this morning in Pennsylvania.
During the Romney event, a protest plane circled the farm, flying a banner with the words "Romney's every millionaire counts tour." And Democrats launched their own bus tour yesterday, called "Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus." It will follow Romney's tour bus.
But supporters at the Scamman Farm event said they were inspired by Romney's message.
Tom Eifler, a Romney supporter from Atkinson, said he thought Romney connected with voters yesterday by promising that the best days for America are yet to come.
"His strength is his knowledge of the economy," Eifler said. "It's right in his wheelhouse."
Eifler, who was also at Scamman Farm when Romney announced his candidacy, said there was "a sort of healthy skepticism" a year ago. That feeling has turned into confidence, he said, describing yesterday's crowd as larger and "a little more electric."
Al Romano of Portsmouth said yesterday was his first time at a Romney event. He was just there to listen, but liked what he heard. The 74-year-old veteran voted for Ron Paul in the Republican primary, but said after the event that he'll likely choose Romney in November.
"I just hope he follows through with everything he's saying," Romano said.