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Romney says fractious GOP will unite to beat Obama

January 06, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joins Mitt Romney at a campaign event in Tilton, N.H., Friday evening.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joins Mitt Romney at a campaign event in… (Andy Jacobson / MCT )

Reporting from Tilton, N.H. — On the eve of what promises to be a combative debate, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney briefly sounded a conciliatory note, promising a concerned New Hampshire voter that the field of candidates would be able to be able to unite after a contentious primary fight.

Responding to the millions of dollars of negative ads that GOP candidates -- and the "super PACs" supporting them – have unleashed on one another, a man at Romney’s spaghetti dinner in Tilton on Friday said he was glad that Romney had not criticized former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in his remarks.

“As a Republican I’m concerned that there’s going to be a lot of negative ads back and forth. After all the dust settles and we’re finished hearing about ‘Romneycare’ and stuff like that on TV,” the man asked, “do you think there are going to be things that you and Newt and the other candidates can agree on and really come together so we can get Obama out of the White House?” 

The former Massachusetts governor promised the crowd of several hundred that if he was defeated by one of the other candidates, he would work to elect the Republican nominee as he did when he lost to John McCain four years ago. “In the primary process, we’ll be going after each other. I mean, as someone said long ago, politics ain’t beanbags,” Romney said -- apparently referring to a phrase used by newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne’s fictional character Mr. Dooley, who said “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

“We’ll be going back and forth and then when it’s all over, we ought to be able to hug and go to work to get one of us elected president of the United States,” Romney said Friday night, “because if there’s a candidate who thinks this campaign is about them, they’re wrong. This is a campaign about America.”

“So we’ll put our egos and bruised feelings aside and come back to do what’s the right thing for our nation,” he said. “On most major issues we agree.”

Romney returned to New Hampshire on Sunday evening after a swing through South Carolina with polls showing him opening a wide lead over his rivals in both states. At the spaghetti dinner in Tilton, he was accompanied by conservative South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who rode into office on a wave of “tea party” support and was a coveted endorsement for the Romney campaign.

But he warned that his leading position in the polls could be fleeting, noting that voters in New Hampshire expect their candidates to “work hard, to earn it.”

“We’re in a real battle right now,” he said. “I know some pollsters say -- well, I’m doing real well. Let me tell you, those polls, they can just disappear overnight.” 

maeve.reston@latimes.com

Mark Z. Barabak in Manchester contributed to this report.

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