Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney… (Elise Amendola / Associated…)
Reporting from Bedford, N.H. — Mitt Romney framed the 2012 election as a battle for "America's soul" and accused Obama of using "the invisible boot of government to bring us all down" on the eve of a three-day bus tour through New Hampshire, a state that he is relying on to clinch the nomination.
Calling the presidential race a choice between two destinies, Romney argued that Obama had attempted to transform America from a merit-based society to an entitlement society -- in which "the battle is over the size of the check you get from Washington."
"President Barack Obama has reversed John Kennedy's call for sacrifice. He would have Americans ask, 'What can the country do for you?'" Romney told a crowd of supporters in Bedford. "President Obama's entitlement society would demand a massive growth of government. To preserve opportunity, we must shrink government, not grow it."
The speech marked the beginning of a more formal phase for the Romney campaign. The candidate spoke using teleprompters and the event was professionally lit. Tomorrow in Keene -- one of the more liberal areas of the state -- Romney will launch a three day, 10-city tour of New Hampshire that will take him into the North Country, a long-struggling area with the state's highest unemployment.
Romney's 45-foot bus -- one staff member called it the "'Earn it' Express" ?- was wrapped in white and blue with Romney's "Believe in America" slogan printed on the side (along with the words conservative, business and leader). He will be accompanied Wednesday by his wife, Ann, and some of New Hampshire's top Republican power brokers, including former Gov. John Sununu, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Rep. Charlie Bass and former Sen. Judd Gregg. Romney's press corps is traveling in a separate bus.
Romney did not mention any of his Republican rivals in Bedford on a day when his chief opponent, Newt Gingrich, complained about the fusillade of negative ads against him in Iowa from the "super PAC" supporting Romney, Restore Our Future.
Gingrich told reporters he didn't object to being outspent, but "I object to lies .... I object to smear campaigns." He refuted Romney's comments, made Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," that he did not have any control over the attacks because he is not allowed to communicate with the super PAC.
In Iowa on Tuesday afternoon, the former House speaker, whose lead has collapsed in several polls, called on Romney to halt what he described as misleading ads from Restore Our Future. Gingrich said Romney should publicly condemn the ads and ask the PAC to run positive ads, adding that that "these are his people running his ads, doing his dirty work, while he pretends to be above it."
President Obama's reelection campaign quickly responded to Romney's speech.
"Only a candidate like Mitt Romney could give a speech like this with a straight face," said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt. "Gov. Romney claims to want to level the playing field to create opportunity, but all his policies do is stack the deck against the middle class. He has repackaged the same policies that caused the economic crisis and led to the insecurity middle class families have been facing."