Mitt Romney stands in a chair while addressing voters in Mason City, Iowa. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
Reporting from Mason City, Iowa — Arguing that he is the most electable GOP candidate who has the experience to right the nation's economic straits, Mitt Romney passionately argued Thursday that he was running for president not for personal gain but because of his deep-seated fears about the United States' future.
"This is not for me the next step of my political career -- I don't have a political career. I've served in government four years. I like to say that I didn't inhale," Romney said. "I'm still a business guy. I'm still a dad. I'm in this race because I'm very concerned about my kids and my grandkids. I'm in this race because I love America and I'm concerned the track we're on is going to change America. And a strong America, with strong values, with a strong economy and with a superior military is essential for our future, our kids' future, their kids' future and for the world. That's why I'm in this."
Romney made the remarks standing on a chair in the middle of Music Man Square, a replica of the town square in the musical of the same name, which was written by Mason City native Meredith Willson. The fictional River City was based on this Iowa town.
Romney gave his standard stump speech to voters, and urged them to consider his background and his ability to go head-to-head with President Obama when deciding who to support when Iowa holds the first presidential voting contest in the nation next week.
"This is a process not just of putting your name or your hand next to someone who you kind of like. It's also selecting who our nominee ought to be, who you think could beat Barack Obama, who you think can get the 1,150 delegates it takes to become our nominee," he said. "So look at the candidates and decide who you like and decide who also could become president and who could lead the country at a time of challenge."
Romney took a handful of friendly questions, including one from 8-year-old Ben Navratil, who had a Romney sticker plastered across his forehead and asked whether it was hard running for president.
"That's a darn good question. And the answer is yes, and no," he said chuckling. "Sounds like a politician, I apologize."
Romney said the constant travel and sleeping in different hotels nearly every night was difficult. Earlier this week, he said the Romney campaign bus was parked outside his hotel near a highway. Trucks would pass by throughout the night.
"Every now and then one of the drivers liked me and would pull his horn," Romney said, to laughter. "And so we had a hard time getting to sleep. And so there are times when it's hard."
Romney said the best part was meeting voters throughout the country, and urged Navratil to give it a go when he was older.
"Getting to run for president has been the greatest opportunity I've ever had to expand the world of my friendships and the people I love and care for," he said. "So if you get the chance to do it, make sure and do it. Win or lose, it's a great thing to do."