Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event… (Matthew Cavanaugh / MCT )
STRATHAM, N.H. – Like buzzing flies drawn to the center of a room, two small planes with trailing banners circled in the blue sky above Mitt Romney as he kicked off a five-day tour of small-town America at a New Hampshire farm.
The unfriendly plane – “Romney's Every Millionaire Counts Tour,” its banner screamed – seemed to be chasing the friendly one with a more mundane message: “Romney for President 2012.”
Round and round they went.
For a campaign that recoils from all things spontaneous, it was a rare distraction at the opening event of Romney’s swing through some of the less populous (and more Republican) regions of the presidential battlegrounds.
Romney’s ad team deployed half a dozen cameras to record the event for TV commercials, just as it did when he kicked off his campaign a year ago at the same picturesque farm in the green rolling hills of southern New Hampshire. One camera hovered at the end of a boom hanging over the crowd of several hundred. A giant arc light, hoisted on a scissor lift, enhanced the sunlight.
On the roof of a white barn behind the stage, a blue banner bore the Romney tour’s slogan, “Every Town Counts,” as did the campaign coach that rolled into the picture.
Warming up the crowd next to piles of hay bales outside the barn was an unlikely, for New England, banjo-and-fiddle bluegrass band.
Leaving little to chance, Romney spoke with the aid of a teleprompter.
“For so many Americans, the distance between their town and the city of Washington has never seemed so far,” Romney read, his shirt sleeves rolled up as appropriate to the setting.
“The federal establishment has never seemed so hostile and so remote, so disconnected from economic reality, and yet so willing to use restrictions and regulations, taxes and fines, commissions and czars to direct our daily lives.”
Along with his boilerplate attacks on President Obama’s economic record, Romney paid tribute to America’s farms and churches, its Little League coaches and PTA members. He also gave nods to presidents who grew up in small towns – Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
Borrowing a campaign staple of Reagan’s, Romney also took aim at welfare.
“Poverty will be defeated not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that’s taught by parents, learned in school and practiced in the workplace,” he said.
Notably missing from Romney’s remarks was any acknowledgment of news that threatened to overshadow his tour – Obama’s announcement that the administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and pose no security threat.
Apart from the hostile airplane, the only other departure from the campaign’s script was a flub by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. In her introduction of the candidate, Ayotte, a potential Romney running mate, took a wrong turn, as it were, as she borrowed Obama’s metaphor of a political party (Republicans, in his telling) driving the country into a ditch.
“It’s time to make sure we are on the wrong road,” she told the crowd. “Let’s not continue with the same driver. We need a new driver who is going to turn this country around.”