Reporting from Manchester, N.H. — Mitt Romney and John McCain have a history of tense relations dating back to their vicious battle for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, but any hard feelings appear to have been put aside as McCain endorsed Romney on Wednesday to be the party’s nominee to take on President Obama.
“It’s with some nostalgia that I return to this place that I love so well,” said McCain, a popular figure in New Hampshire who twice won GOP presidential primaries here. “I’m really here for one reason and one reason only and that is to make sure we make Mitt Romney the next president of the United States of America. And New Hampshire, and New Hampshire is the state that will catapult him onto victory in a very short period of time. That’s why I’m here.”
McCain, whom Romney introduced as “an American hero” and “a giant among men,” painted a bleak picture of President Obama’s tenure.
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“Our message for President Barack Obama is you can run but you can’t hide from your record of making this country bankrupt, from destroying our national security and to making this nation one that we have to restore with Mitt Romney as the president of the United States of America,” said the Arizona senator, speaking in front of a few hundred people gathered in a high school gym.
The endorsement came on the heels of Romney’s paper-thin victory in the Iowa caucuses, the results of which weren’t clear until early Wednesday. Romney beat Rick Santorum by eight votes out of more than 123,000 cast.
“What a big night we had last night, or what a big morning we had this morning in Iowa,” Romney said. “My goodness, what a squeaker, but it sure is nice to have a win, I’ll tell you. And the question I have for you is can we do better here in New Hampshire? Do you think we can get more than an eight-vote margin here in New Hampshire? I’m going to try.”
Romney is expected to do far, far better than that when New Hampshire holds the first primary in the nation exactly one week from today. He was the governor of neighboring Massachusetts, owns a lakeside vacation home here where he spends a lot of time with his family and has campaigned extensively in the state. Romney was accompanied at the rally by popular Granite state politicians, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Gov. John Sununu.
The crowd, true to form, asked tough questions. An Occupy New Hampshire protester asked Romney to amend his “corporations are people” comment. Romney declined. A woman asked about the individual mandate included in the healthcare reform law he created while governor of Massachusetts, upon which Obama’s plan is modeled. Romney responded that it was an appropriate state exercise but not a proper federal one. A Chinese woman who is an American citizen objected to demagoguery of China. Romney, who frequently casts the nation as unfair trade partners, currency manipulators and “cheaters,” responded by saying he did not mean to disparage Asians, that he too loved the United States and welcomed legal immigrants.
The one voter comment that failed to get a response came from an Arizona native who told McCain, “We would love to see you on the ticket with Mitt Romney.” Neither man commented.