Reporting from Manchester, N.H. -- Defending his turf in a state where he has long held a commanding lead, Mitt Romney returned to New Hampshire on Saturday, joining hundreds of volunteers who set out to knock on 5,000 doors for the former Massachusetts governor less than six weeks before the Jan. 10 primary.
Vowing to earn a victory in the first-in-the-nation primary state where he has a summer home, Romney ignored his Republican rivals during a morning rally with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, instead mocking President Obama for taking a vacation over the holidays.
“When you consider all the golf, all the vacations—a new 17-day vacation, I’m thinking of that old song back in the 1960s, remember that? – the one that was called 'My boyfriend’s back,'” Romney asked, speaking to supporters from the back of a Dodge Ram pickup truck in the parking lot of a diner. “They said in there, 'My boyfriend’s back he’s going to give you a permanent vacation.' That’s what we’re going to give Barack Obama.”
Despite a recent surge in the polls by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Romney operatives say they are confident in their ground game in New Hampshire – where they have contacted more than 300,000 voters since Romney announced his candidacy in June.
Romney, who is well known in New Hampshire after his 2008 bid for the Republican nomination, has also spent more than $220,000 to air ads on the state’s largest television station during the past two weeks.
Asked about Gingrich on Saturday, Romney sought to draw attention to his rival’s work as a longtime Washington lawmaker and advisor in government affairs.
“I have led four different organizations, two businesses, the Olympics and a state,” Romney said. “I think people who have had that experience in leading and guiding enterprises and changing them in dramatic ways is the kind of leadership that people in America are looking for.”
Also on Saturday, Republican businessman Herman Cain was expected to announce whether he would continue, suspend or end his campaign for the GOP nomination, which had sputtered after a string of sexual-harassment allegations and an accusation that he had a 13-year extramarital affair.
Romney said that if Cain decides to leave the race, he would also work to court those voters. “If he decides not to stay in the race, I wish him well,” Romney said. “If he doesn’t stay in the race, why, those folks are going to take a good hard look at all of us. I don’t think people have really settled down in a final way to decide who they are going to support.”
Kim Geiger in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.