Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Jackpot won, Romney Now Works on Name Recognition

(from the New York Times

Jackpot Won, Romney Now Works on Name Recognition

MANCHESTER, N.H., April 3 — Mitt Romney dashed across southern New Hampshire on Tuesday, enjoying the media attention that has come with his new fund-raising haul while trying to raise his profile among voters.

He started the day in a television studio in Watertown, Mass., doing interviews with the morning shows of all three broadcast networks, before driving to Keene, N.H., for a community forum that attracted a few dozen people along with a sizable news media contingent.

Mr. Romney’s campaign announced Monday that it had raised $20 million in the first quarter, outpacing efforts by his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. But he has trailed Senator John McCain of Arizona and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, the most established Republican contenders, in most nationwide polls. His supporters say the reason is largely that few people outside Massachusetts, where he was governor until three months ago, and Utah, where he was chief executive of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, yet know who he is.

So in introducing himself Tuesday to voters here in the state with the first presidential primary, Mr. Romney focused on his biography. He took them through his successful career in management consulting and venture capital, then his experience tackling the problems of the troubled Salt Lake City Olympics and finally his record as a one-term governor.

In a stump speech that he is still smoothing, he portrayed himself as a Washington outsider who would bring his private-sector experience to bear on reforming government.

“Whether you agree with me or disagree with me on issue after issue, one thing that is clear is I bring change to an organization I’m associated with,” he said during an afternoon speech in Manchester at offices of Easter Seals. The country requires change, he said, from “business-as-usual lifelong politicians always debating and arguing and poking at each other about the way things get done.”

The candidate also sought to play up his large family as evidence of the kind of values he espouses. He and his wife, Ann, high school sweethearts, have 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

Their oldest son, Tagg, who quit his job as a marketing executive for the Los Angeles Dodgers to join his father in campaigning, was with him Tuesday, along with Tagg’s 11-year-old daughter, Allie. They were introduced to audiences at several events.

“I have a big incentive to do a good job: 5 sons, 5 daughters-in-laws and 10 grandkids,” Mr. Romney said in his stop at Easter Seals, adding, in remarks to a group that included a large number of older people, “I want to make sure that the America my grandkids inherit is an America with just as much promise, just as much opportunity and just as much hope as some in your generation gave to me and my kids.”

Mr. Romney’s conservative critics have dogged him in recent months, raising questions about his conservative credentials. Some have noted that as recently as 2002 he supported protecting abortion rights in Massachusetts and that he joined the National Rifle Association only after it became clear that he was planning to run for president.

But perhaps because many people are still getting to know him, voters in Keene and Manchester did not press him on those issues Tuesday.

Local reporters did sharply question him, however, and he responded with well-practiced answers.

“I did change my view on abortion, but my view on same-sex marriage is the same,” he said. “I’ve opposed same-sex marriage from the beginning. Of course, with time and experience, I’m going to change my views where I’ve learned I’ve been wrong.”

In an interview, he explained: “I have always been personally pro-life. The issue for me was, What should the role of government be?” But, he said, he came to believe that states should be permitted to restrict abortion.

Several voters said Tuesday that they believed Mr. Romney’s change of position was genuine.

“I think we all grow,” said Canon Samir J. Habiby, a retired Episcopal priest, who dropped by to hear him in Keene. “I think he’s believable.”

Mr. Romney, a Mormon, was not asked by his audiences Tuesday about his faith, which some analysts have suggested could make him unelectable. In the interview, he said his religion was usually raised only by reporters.

When asked about the issue, one New Hampshirite, Cindy Meade, said it was irrelevant. “Religion shouldn’t come into it,” said Ms. Meade, an administrative assistant at Granite State Manufacturing, a Manchester company Mr. Romney visited Tuesday. “That to me is discrimination.”

Mr. Romney mentioned that his $20 million first-quarter take had come from some 32,000 to 33,000 donors. But though he said his fund-raising triumph showed that his message was resonating, his events Tuesday were mostly small affairs. Money will allow him to begin to change that and reach large audiences, he said. He expects to make major purchases of television time and build an extensive field operation as he focuses on the early primary states.

“Obviously I’m not as well known as Senator McCain and Mayor Giuliani at this stage,” he said, “but raising money from people who support my effort gives me the opportunity to build the kind of awareness that we’ll need to win the primaries and the caucuses.”

While he may be able to raise a lot of money, though, he does not always carry much of it around. Having sampled a piece of blueberry pie and a glass of milk at a diner in Peterborough, N.H., he had to borrow $5 from his son to pay. “I’ve got 55 cents,” Mr. Romney said.

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