LONDONDERRY, N.H. -- Before former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney arrived at his first campaign stop at Insight Technology, a maker of high-tech military laser and imaging systems, a young woman went around the room, hurriedly handing out leaflets to the 150 or so employees gathered to hear Romney speak.
The leaflet entitled, "Questions for Presidential Candidates," had a half dozen questions, most of them critical of the Iraq war and U.S. nuclear policies. A few minutes later another woman, who identified herself as an Insight employee, came around and with a stern voice, asked the assembled workers to give her the leaflets.
"These are anti-Romney," she said. "We don't allow this. Some young woman snuck in here and handed these out. She didn't belong here, we don't allow this!" Every employee I saw her approach handed the leaflets over.
After Romney gave his standard speech and asked for questions, one older gentleman stood and said he had a question about the First Amendment and the right to free speech. He relayed the above story and added that the young woman had been asked rather forcefully to leave. He then asked Romney what he thought of that.
Romney at first seemed taken aback and looked as though he'd prefer to laugh if off. Then the candidate, who has made "Ask Mitt Anything" sessions a staple of his campaign, seemed to recognize brushing this off was not an option and he seemed to realize this could be a useable moment.
Saying, "I'm not afraid of any questions" and "I was on 'Meet The Press' yesterday, for Pete's sake," he asked to see the leaflet. Romney then proceeded to answer the leaflet questions about the cost of the war and bring the troops home from Iraq, his voice growing more confident as he went along. "What patriot would take the troops out regardless of the consequences," he asked in response.
Romney never did address the free speech issue, whether he condoned or condemned the attempt to stifle a line of questioning. Still, the workers at this military technology company seemed rather pleased with his response and gave him an energetic round of applause. The candidate seemed rather pleased with himself.