Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives a thumbs up as he carries his… (Charles Dharapak / AP Photo )
WOLFEBORO, N.H. — On a day that seemed limned from an earlier, simpler America, Mitt Romney marched in an Independence Day parade near his New Hampshire summer home and delivered a speech that set aside, for the moment, the bruising rhetoric of the presidential campaign.
Taking a break from a vacation with family at Lake Winnipesaukee, Romney went so far as to celebrate the presence of President Obama's supporters in the parade and quickly silenced his own backers who booed at their mention.
"You know what?" Romney told them, as he spoke from the back of a pickup truck overlooking a blue-green vista of the lake and distant mountains. "They were courteous and respectful and said, 'Good luck to you,' and 'Happy Fourth of July.'"
Photos: Scenes from Mitt Romney's Fourth of July
Continuing, he said. "This is a time for us to come together as a people. We have differing views on political issues, but with regards to our conviction that this nation is unique and exceptional, we must come together and show respect for what it is that makes us such a great nation."
It was a notable time-out from what is becoming an increasingly contentious campaign.
The presumptive Republican nominee, accompanied by what he called “a bevy of Romneys,” marched near the end of the parade, which filled Wolfeboro's Main Street for more than two hours and showcased a mind-bending vision of small-town Americana.
There was the American Legion and the Rotary, the Daughters of the American Revolution and virtually every local elected official. There also was a Toro lawnmower brigade, a truck from Big Moose RV Sales, a rolling wood-fired pizza oven and enough military and farm vehicles to move and feed an army.
There also was a parade favorite: the Wolfeboro Offshore Ad-Lib Precision Lawn Chair Drill Team — basically, a bunch of senior citizens who march in formation throwing lawn chairs around with abandon, except when they are taking a break by sitting in them.
When the candidate finally appeared, he worked the crowd with an almost manic energy, keeping up a constant patter as he darted from one side of the street to the other, shaking hands.
"Nice to see you! How are you? Good to see you! Good to meet you! How are you? Have a happy Fourth," Romney said, scarcely drawing a breath between exclamations. The crowd responded with enthusiasm, picking up the chants led by campaign operatives: "Let's go, Mitt!" and "We need Mitt!"
As Romney noted, Obama supporters were present and vocal, but didn't get much support from the gathered crowd, which reflected the strong Republican leanings of the area. Perhaps 100 people in Obama T-shirts marched behind a Wolfeboro Democrats banner, chanting, “Four more years.”
“Go Mitt!” some Romney stalwarts yelled back.
Still, as Romney also observed, the event was notable for its civility. One Obama volunteer, 17-year-old Elizabeth Malia, enthused that "everybody loved Obama" and wanted his campaign stickers — a statement that appeared to be at odds with reality. Still, not far away, Theresa Carroll, 59, confessed that she and her daughter were among those who had taken the stickers — despite being committed Romney supporters.
"We didn't want to be rude," she said.