By Gretyl Macalaster
Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney promoted New Hampshire as a model for the nation in how to grow and maintain a stable economy.
It was part of a 30-minute speech Romney made during a visit to the Portsmouth Rotary Club's weekly luncheon at the Redhook Brewery.
Romney said New Hampshire adapted after the textile industry faded, allowing it to become a "hotbed of innovation" without instituting an income or sales tax and through keeping government small and less intrusive.
"This is the lesson the nation can learn," Romney said.
He said the United States needs to work on making itself the most attractive place in the world for businesses to come and grow through more streamlined policies, including an improved energy policy.
Romney identified with the approximately 150 business people in the room as a former businessman himself.
"I have the experience of having spent most of my life doing what you do, which is working in the real economy," Romney said. Romney said he loves America, loves capitalism and loves free enterprise.
"I like you guys," he said to the room. "I recognize that what you are doing allows us to provide for one another and support our nation."
The Republican frontrunner also used the opportunity to address questions about the debt ceiling, the number one topic in national politics for the past several weeks.
He said President Barack Obama needs to cut spending, cap spending and support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
"If he does those things, the issue disappears," Romney said.
Romney said President Barack Obama's economic policies made the recession worse, and are doing the same for the recovery.
Romney said he wants to keep entitlement programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, but would make sure they get on a sustainable rate of growth so as not to overwhelm the economy.
On the issue of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Romney said he would like to maintain between 10,000 and 20,000 troops in Iraq for now instead of pulling them all out immediately and said the timeline for Afghanistan should be set by the military generals on the ground, not politicians.
Romney launched his campaign for the presidency at Doug and Stella Scamman's Bittersweet Farm in Stratham last month and Stella Scamman was pleased to welcome him back to the Seacoast.
"We decided a long time ago that Mitt Romney had the background, experience and style that we like for a President to have," Scamman said.
Scamman said she thought Romney's message was appropriate for his audience, addressing and dealing with real issues and how he hopes to improve the economy and the job market.
"Because of his experience as a businessman he understands the real issues that are plaguing our country," Scamman said.
Portsmouth Rotary Club president-elect Nancy Notis said this is the first of what she hopes is many visits by candidates this primary season.
"As the first-in-the-nation primary state, we are in a very gifted position and we look forward to having many candidates come through and share information with our Rotarians, both Republicans and Democrats," Notis said.