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Romney returns, shifts focus to N.H.

Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (left) and his wife Ann spoke to supporters during a rally after departing his campaign plane in Portsmouth, N.H., early Friday morning. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (left) and his wife Ann spoke to supporters during a rally after departing his campaign plane in Portsmouth, N.H., early Friday morning. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Email|Print| Text size + By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / January 4, 2008

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - It was 3:45 a.m. this morning, but Mitt Romney was standing on the back of a black Ford 350 pickup truck, shouting hoarsely into a microphone.

"Wow, you guys are crazy! What a welcome! What a welcome!" he boomed to 100 cheering, sign-waving supporters. "Have you guys just gotten up or are you going to bed -- which is it?"

The rally in a Portsmouth airplane hangar was carefully staged to give Romney a boost after his loss to Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses, just a few hours earlier.

After flying through the night from Des Moines, with the press in the aft of a chartered JetBlue airplane, Romney descended the stairs onto the tarmac. It was dark and cold but there was a crowd of reporters, photographers and TV crews there to greet him.

Flanked by his wife, Ann, and his two of his five sons, he strode into the hangar to the strains of Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation," and climbed onto the pickup. The crowd of supporters included diehard local Republicans as well as Bradley H. Jones Jr., the Republican leader of the Massachusetts House, and Kerry Healey, who was Romney's lieutenant governor.

"It's so great to be back in New Hampshire!" Romney said. "What a thrill it is to come here to see all of you! I simply can't get over it."

After noting that in Iowa, "we got the silver," he vowed: "In New Hampshire, we're going to get the gold."

He also laid out the argument that will likely fuel his push to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary against his chief rival here, the longtime US Senator John McCain. The main lesson from Iowa, he said, is that voters want "change in Washington."

"There are some people who are going to try to convince the voters of New Hampshire and other states that all we need to do change Washington is have the same people go there but just change chairs," Romney said. "That's not our idea. No, what we're going to do to change Washington is to bring someone in - I'm talking about me - to bring to Washington the kind of can-do change experience that I've had everywhere I've been."

After the five-minute speech, he mingled and shook hands. Someone handed him an Olympic-looking medal on a red, white and blue ribbon and he wore it around his neck. It was gold and stamped with the word "winner."

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