In N.H., Romney Sets Sights On Different GOP Rival

From CBS News' Scott Conroy

HENDERSON, N.H. -- In recent campaign stops in Iowa and South Carolina, Mitt Romney has focused his attacks on the GOP frontrunner in the two states: Mike Huckabee. But now that Romney is stumping in New Hampshire, John McCain — who most polls show is his chief rival here — has become his main target.

"President Bush did a pretty courageous thing. At a time when our economy needed a boost, needed a stimulus, he said, 'You know what, we're gonna lower taxes,' and not everybody agreed with him," Romney said at a town hall forum in front of about 150 people.

"You know, one of my friends is Senator McCain. He voted against the Bush tax cuts. I think the Bush tax cuts were a great thing for our country, I support them, I want to make them permanent and I want to add to them."

During the Q and A session, Romney was asked a pointed question regarding his earlier comment by a man that the campaign later referred to as a "plant."

"Sir, tonight you've attacked your opponents for their failure to support the Bush tax cuts," the man said. "But to be entirely fair, sir, you yourself refused to endorse the Bush tax cuts as governor in 2003, saying you wouldn't be a cheerleader for a tax break you didn't support. Isn't your attack tonight, sir, hypocritical in this respect, and is this not another flip flop added to the ones identified by Tim Russert on Meet The Press last Sunday?"

"No," Romney said, chuckling to himself. "And actually what I said, on the first occasion I was asked about it is I said, 'Look, I'm busy being governor. I know our economy needs a stimulus and I encourage that, but I didn't take a position and I said I'd neither support nor oppose because I'm running—excuse me, I'm governor of Massachusetts, and the first statement I made about the tax cuts was that I supported them."

Romney went on to point out that he campaigned for President Bush in 2004.

"I think there are two Republican senators who voted against the Bush tax cuts, and I think it was a mistake to do so," Romney said. I'm in favor of making them permanent. I support the Bush tax cuts, and I want to add to them."

After the event, the Romney campaign sent out an email to reporters containing a link to a video clip that appears to feature the man who asked tonight's question. The YouTube video was added on August 2 and purports to have been filmed in Amherst, New Hampshire.

In the clip, a goateed man who resembles the person who asked tonight's question, stands next to a human dressed as a dolphin and shouts from a bullhorn at Romney to "stop giving money to Democrats."

  • Scott Conroy On Twitter»

    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.