Mitt Romney speaks with reporters at Lui Lui restaurant in West Lebanon,… (Evan Vucci, Associated…)
WEST LEBANON, N.H. — Mitt Romney briefly emerged from intensive debate preparations to explicitly make the argument Wednesday that has been the subtext of his campaign for months: Americans aren't better off today than they were four years ago.
During a quick stop for pizza at Lui Lui restaurant in West Lebanon, Romney told the small pool of reporters he had read the texts of a number of the first-day speeches at the Democratic National Convention and noticed "there's a couple of things that can't be said."
"You've heard no one stand up and say that people are better off than they were four years ago. They really can't say that. They can't say it in all honesty," the Republican presidential nominee said.
As evidence, he pointed to what he called the two big numbers this week: the fact that the national debt had hit $16 trillion and a report that 47 million people in America are now receiving food stamps.
"When he came to office there were 32 million. He's added 15 million people," Romney said. "More people have fallen into poverty. One out of six Americans are now in poverty.
"There is just no way to square those numbers with the idea that America is doing better, because it's not. The American people are not doing better, and this president understands that, and I think that's why people are reluctant to even talk about it, because they know the American people know better."
Romney said he had not watched First Lady Michelle Obama's speech, but told reporters he did not interpret her comment that "part of success in America is not slamming the door behind you" to be a shot at him.
"I didn't see that, and I'm certainly not going to make any comments about the first lady's speech other than that I respect her, think she's a lovely person and a fine mom," Romney told reporters at the pizza place, where he took three questions.
Earlier Romney made a brief visit to LaValley Building Supply, a family-owned business that has been a mainstay for contractors and residents of New Hampshire's Upper Valley region since 1962.
Romney shook a few hands and spoke to the owner about the business. But he spent most of his time at LaValley doing interviews with Fox and several swing-state television stations, including one in North Carolina — ensuring that his comments would air just as President Obama was arriving in Charlotte.
Romney spent most of the day, however, sequestered at the home of his former lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, a large estate in the rolling hills of Vermont's horse country. With many of his top advisors serving as his audience, Romney has spent the last few days doing mock debates with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who played the role of Obama during 2008 debate prep with John McCain, then the Republican presidential nominee.
"I'm just glad I won't be debating Rob Portman in the final debates," Romney told reporters. "He's good."