MANCHESTER, N.H. – In the first town hall of his freshly-announced presidential campaign, Mitt Romney this morning continued to offer a sharp critique of President Obama’s handling of the economy.
“Look he’s a nice guy, he’s well spoken - he could talk a dog off a meat wagon - and yet he hasn’t delivered,” the former Massachusetts governor said in a conference room at the University of New Hampshire’s campus here. “We’ve had three years now - at the beginning it was all George Bush - we’re not hearing a lot about George Bush now, by the way, as we’re seeing unemployment at nine percent plus. It went up again today.”
“He can’t keep blaming George Bush,” he added. “This is now his economy.”
It was the first time this year that Romney has faced a group of voters in the unscripted forums that New Hampshire prides itself on. About 100 people showed up to the event, bringing written questions to ask the candidate about issues he has not brought up himself: education, climate change, and abortion.
In one of his most illuminating comments, Romney said that he believed that global warming was real, and humans are contributing to it - a statement that his other Republican rivals have generally avoided.
“I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course,” Romney said, in response to the first question of the morning. “But I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.”
He also said he wanted to wean the country from its dependence on foreign oil by seeking alternative sources of energy, and said that Americans should do more to conserve.
“I’m told that we use almost twice as much energy per person as does a European, and more like three times as much energy as does a Japanese citizen,” Romney said. “We can do a lot better.”
He also called for working with other countries. “We don’t call it America warming. We call it global warming,” he said. “And if there’s going to be an effort in this, it has to be global in scope.”
Romney, dressed in black denim and an open-collared shirt, appears trying to reconnect with voters in an informal way. He was introduced by Ann Romney, who referred to her husband several times as “sweetie.”
Romney began his remarks by repeating personal stories about his wife and his father (and mentioned that he still has a 1962 Rambler parked in his garage). He also retold a story about a time when, as governor of Massachusetts, he went to Logan International Airport to receive the body of a dead soldier on behalf of a family. A crowd formed at the terminal to watch the casket come from the belly of a US Airways flight.
“I looked up there and every single person I saw had their hand on their heart,” he said. “And I couldn’t see the tears but I could read the tears of sadness and respect and appreciation in their faces. We are a patriotic people. And we face extraordinary challengers right now, but we are going to overcome those challenges.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.