I’m in Manchester, New Hampshire for the next few days, covering the next stop in the Republican primary process. After arriving late last night, I got up early this morning to travel to Derry, where Mitt Romney had a rally scheduled at Pinkerton Academy at 8:20 this morning. Pinkerton is in Derry, a picturesque town that doesn’t quite resemble a suburb, but isn’t really that rural, either. It’s best described as quaint in the most complimentary meaning of the term. It mainly features small, stand-alone shops, but at the moment, I’m writing this post from a café called The Coffee House in one of the few strip malls I’ve seen, which has live music from a harpist and cellist.
The event itself was well-attended, especially for the quiet area in which it was held and the time of day. I guessed that Romney had attracted about 300 people, but I was pretty far off; the campaign later said that the estimate from the Derry PD was 1,020, and the fire marshal told the local media that the hard count at the front door was 930. On the way in, though, the attendees got to hear from Ron Paul supporters, who have made a habit of demonstrating outside of Romney events in New Hampshire. There weren’t too many of them, though, only about a dozen. The one here in the foreground has a sign that says, “The doctor will free you now,” and they called out to people to “Say yes to Dr. No!”
Not everyone who attended was committed to Romney. I didn’t mix much with the crowd, but I spoke to a couple of reporters later who were having trouble finding solid Romney backers to interview. I saw a lot of stickers and buttons, however, and the crowd seemed very enthusiastic for Romney and his surrogates, Senator Kelly Ayotte and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, both of whom spoke at the rally. One man in particular was not at all a fan of Romney — an Occupy heckler who tried to disrupt the event. Fortunately, I was in perfect position to capture the exchange, such as it was:
Hey, if he’s the only protester, doesn’t that make him the 0.1% in a crowd of a thousand?
Romney wasn’t thrown by this at all. He waited for the crowd to drown out the protester, and then reminded people how fortunate we are to live in a country where dissent is not stifled, although he wished it had been presented with “respect and civility.” I was a little surprised that there was only one outburst; I expected another, but it never came. The Derry police showed a great deal of restraint in this case, standing by the man to let him have his say, and then escorting him out when the moment was over … even if the Occupier hadn’t quite figured that out.
Otherwise, the speeches were standard campaign fare, but clearly Romney wants to stick to the economy and encroaching federal regulation as the basis of his campaign against Obama. Haley and Ayotte never strayed far from those themes, either, and Haley emphasized them when she told the crowd that her biggest headache as Governor doesn’t come from the state itself, but interference from Washington DC. Both were effective, but Haley showed that she can charm a crowd. Eventually, we might see Haley headlining presidential primary events. Romney stuck with economic arguments almost completely, in the last few minutes changed to more of an inspirational call to patriotism and duty by quoting from “America the Beautiful.” He then stuck around for about a half hour to shake hands and talk with people before going into another room to do a couple of media interviews.
I’m posting the Haley and Ayotte speeches in their entirety, and Romney’s conclusion to his speech below, but this post would not be complete without mentioning that another candidate dropped by the auditorium after Romney left. I think I’ve found Jazz Shaw’s dream presidential candidate:
This is what makes covering American politics fun. A local police officer told me the boot is on his head because Mr. Supreme wants to give politicians the boot. He had no idea what the half-dozen ties meant, and Mr. Supreme didn’t explain it during his brief but memorable appearance.
Here are the three videos. Enjoy. I’ll be at a Santorum event later and will have video and more observations later today.