Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, campaigns with… (Stephan Savoia / Associated…)
Reporting from Peterborough, N.H. — It was a bittersweet homecoming of sorts when John McCain returned to this picturesque town on Wednesday. Peterborough was the site of one of his very first presidential campaign rallies in his unsuccessful 2000 bid to be the GOP presidential nominee, and the site of one of the last before he lost the 2008 general election to President Obama.
McCain returned to endorse and campaign with Mitt Romney, with whom he fought a fierce primary battle four years ago, and who is a front-runner to win this year’s Republican nomination.
McCain received the warmest welcome from the hundreds of people in attendance, who leapt to their feet and offered sustained applause.
“It’s wonderful to be back, it’s wonderful to be here in Peterborough, in this beautiful place where Mitt and I have spent time in the past and [with] the wonderful people of New Hampshire,” he said. “I’m here obviously on a very special effort tonight because I think this nation is facing severe difficulties. I think we’re facing challenges in many ways, foreign and domestic.”
McCain was more effusive over Romney than he was earlier in the day at a rally in Manchester.
“I am committed and believe that the United States of America needs Mitt Romney as the next president of the United States of America. These are troubled times,” McCain said. “This man has the background, the experience and the knowledge, and as we’ve just observed, the vision, the vision for the future of this country. Because Mitt Romney and I believe America’s best days are ahead of us. We don’t believe American is on the decline.”
Despite their vicious primary battle in 2008, once McCain won the nomination, Romney campaigned heavily for him, which appears to have to put some of the old animosity to rest.
McCain, who showed some of the self-deprecating humor that endeared him to New Hampshire voters, said Romney was “an enormous help” to his last presidential bid.
“After I lost, I slept like a baby,” he said. “Sleep two hours, wake up and cry.”
For a few moments, McCain broke into familiar jokes, with his wife, Cindy, Romney and the crowd laughing along.
The Arizona senator noted that congressional approval ratings were so low that the only people who approved were paid staffers and old relatives.
He said he had recently been at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix when a man approached him and said, "Has anyone ever told you you look a lot like Sen. John McCain?"
"I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Doesn't it just make you mad as hell?' "