ABC News’ Michael Falcone and Gregory Simmons report:
MANCHESTER, N.H. — At a busy gas station here where motorists were filling their tanks with nearly $4 a gallon gasoline, likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney came to deliver the message that the Obama administration was doing too little to bring prices down.
“People are hurting, gasoline’s expensive and the policies of this administration that have focused solely on green technologies are not keeping the cost of gasoline down,” Romney said at Hillsborough Gas and Repair.
Romney, who was scheduled to speak later Friday night at a major Republican cattle call in New Hampshire along with a handful of other possible 2012 presidential candidates, hopped out of an aide’s Ford Escape and filled up the tank.
The bill, which Romney paid with a credit card, came to $38.52 at the station where the price of a regular gallon of gas was $3.93.
“We’re sending almost a half a trillion dollars a year outside this country, buying energy from other nations and we could be on a track to instead become energy secure, energy independent ourselves,” Romney said, adding that the U.S. should take steps to develop domestic oil resources as well as renewable energy sources.
Romney moved from gas pump to gas pump, asking local residents how long they commute to work each day, how many times a week they visit a gas station, and how high prices have affected their everyday lives.
Manchester physician Don Rainone, a father of four who was filling up the tank of his blue Chevy Trailblazer, said that the rising cost of fuel “affects everything.”
“My daughter just got her license and she says, ‘dad, how am I going to put gas in the car?’” Rainone told Romney. “What job is going to pay enough” to buy a tank of fuel, Rainone asked, adding, “if she can get a job.”
“The reason for these prices is because we have not kept our supply in line with our demand,” Romney said.
And Rainone, 49, seemed convinced. He said he voted for Romney in the 2008 New Hampshire primary and was inclined to do so again in 2012, assuming Romney, who recently launched a presidential exploratory committee, officially jumps into the race.
“I’d vote for him again,” Rainone said. “We need a competent, courageous leader.”
Friday night’s event in Manchester, organized by the conservative group, Americans For Prosperity, marks the first time that Romney, who owns a home in this crucial early primary state, will participate in a multi-candidate forum this year.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain will all be on hand for the “Presidential Summit on Spending and Job Creation."
When asked by reporters whether he planned to participate in next week's first GOP primary debate in South Carolina, Romney replied: “Stay tuned.”