Romney hits Obama hard, paints himself as presumptive nominee
MANCHESTER, NH -- All the votes had not even been counted in New Hampshire, and Mitt Romney was already looking ahead to the general election against President Obama.
In contrast to last week's Iowa caucuses, where the results -- and speeches -- slogged on late into the night, the former Massachusetts governor took the stage Tuesday night just moments after the major television networks, including CBS, projected at 8:00 p.m. ET that Romney would win the first primary in the nation in New Hampshire.
And that win made him the first non-incumbent Republican candidate to win both the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses since the first two contests took their current form in 1980.
"Thank you, New Hampshire. Tonight, we made history!" he told the crowd, which roared he presented himself as a clear alternative to Mr. Obama.
"The president has run out of ideas. Now he is running out of excuses," Romney said, "And tonight we are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time."
He went on to paint a sharp contrast of how he would govern compared to Mr. Obama.
"This president puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people. He is making the federal government bigger, burdensome, and bloated. I will make it simpler, smaller, and smarter," Romney said.
"He raised the national debt. I will cut, cap, and balance the budget. He enacted job-killing regulations; I'll eliminate them. He lost our AAA credit rating; I'll restore it. He passed Obamacare; I'll repeal it," Romney said.
"The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurances that government will always be the solution," said Romney. "If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, then I'm not your president. You have that president today."
Romney made only one reference to his Republican primary opponents, saying: "President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation," referring to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Huntsman, who finished third Tuesday night, and Gingrich have criticized Romney for saying "I like being able to fire people" while touting the benefits of being able to choose health insurance companies. Gingrich later said the out-of-context slams against Romney were not fair.
Romney concluded his Tuesday victory speech imploring voters to "remember how special it is to be an American."
"I want you to remember what it was like to be hopeful and excited about the future, not to dread each new headline. I want you to remember when you spent more time dreaming about where to send your kids to college than wondering how to make it to the next paycheck. I want you to remember when you weren't afraid to look at your retirement savings or the price at the pump. I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become. That America is still out there. We still believe in that America," he said to the fired up audience of about 500 supporters.
All five of Romney's sons were on stage with him -- their first time all have been together on the trail -- as well as his wife Ann, who he embraced upon finishing his remarks. As they shook hands with well wishers flanking the stage, Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" blasted over the loudspeaker. When the chorus "Good times never seemed so good" came on, Romney pumped his fist and sang out loud "So good, so good." As if he were in Boston's Fenway Park during a Red Sox blowout.