ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf (@zbyronwolf) reports:
Mitt Romney loped around Derry, New Hampshire this morning, riding high after Monday night’s first debate in the nation’s first primary state. In comments with reporters, he kept his focus on President Obama, but also seemed to direct some criticism at a Republican rival.
His campaign this time is a lot different than five years ago when he lost the Republican nomination, he told a tangle of reporters following his hour-long walk around Derry.
"Five years ago it was ‘who the heck are you?’ and now its ‘oh yeah, I know who you are,” he told a tangle of reporters following him around in Derry, New Hampshire, where he engaged in some traditional retail politicking, introducing himself to voters.
The Former Massachusetts governor was well-received by locals at MaryAnn’s Diner, where he posed for pictures, recommended the waffles, and kept the talk on sports- Bruins and Red Sox.
He sprang forward while posing for a picture with the waitresses at MaryAnns, suggesting that one had grabbed his rear end. “I was just teasing them,” he said later.
Walking down Broadway in Derry, a man yelled out of a dump truck, “Way to go, Mitt. You got my vote!”
That man, Ron McPhail, a roofer who supported Romney in 2008, but did not watch the debate Monday night, turned his dump truck around and came over to meet Romney. McPhail later said he’s not been affected by the bad economy.
But Mary Ellen Zarba, who stopped Romney on the street, complained that her husband has lived for three years, working as civil engineer in Saudi Arabia because “there’s no jobs in this country.”
Romney told Zarba that President Obama is to blame.
“That’s three years of President Obama’s four year term, and it has not worked,” he said. “If I’m President of the United States there will not be a day that I’m not being briefed on and thinking about bringing American jobs back to America and make America the number one job creator in the world. For me it’s everything you can do. Every lever you can pull, which is taxes, trade policies, energy policies, rule of law, good schools, and a government that doesn’t spend more money than it takes in.”
“So one more year before he’s home then,” said Zarba.
“I’ll go to get your husband back at work,” said Romney.
New Hampshire is home turf for Romney, who owns a summer home in the state, and he seemed interested in buying hay from a farmer who greeted him outside Derry Feed and Supply.
“Do you go to Wolfboro,” Romney asked, before talking about his wife’s horses.
But Romney declined to get his hands dirty and move hay with the farmer.
“I’m so allergic,” he said. “I would be sneezing for a month.”
During a press conference outside the feed store, Romney did not mention his rivals for the Republican nomination, instead targeting President Obama, who he said doesn’t recognize there is an economic crisis.
“The President has been celebrating the auto industry coming back. Recognize at the same time we’ve seen unemployment go to 9.1 percent. He indicated this is just a bump on the road. This isn’t just a bump on the road, these are Americans,” said Romney, referring to the president’s argument that the recovery will take time.
“The president is just not connected to what is happening in American and his policies have failed us,” said Romney.
Romney said he thought all the Republican candidates did well at the debate – “everybody was lifted a little bit.”
DEBATE and TPAW – Romney directed some gentle, but clear jibes at Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Romney lamented that he did not get asked a question about the economy, and said he does agree with a lot of what the other candidates said Monday, particularly Tim Pawlenty.
Drawing an analogy, he said he didn’t know who would win a debate between former GE CEO Jack Welch and a business student. But there’s no question who is better equipped to run a business.
“A lot of people can say the same words, but to understand what those words mean and to actually craft solutions that work to create jobs, in that circumstance its helpful to have actually created jobs, to understand how an economy works because you’ve worked in it.”
“To create jobs it helps to have had a job,” he said.
HEALTH REFORM: – “I’m not running for Governor of Massachusetts”
On whether his health reform record and the Massachusetts health plan he signed into law will continue to dog him: “If people want to look at what’s happening in Massachusetts, why, I’m not running for governor of Massachusetts. I’m running for president of the United States and my plan is for the nation.”
On AFGHANISTAN – “We would not make a decision on withdrawal dates based on cash flow or based upon political favors or political benefit, but instead based upon the ability of the Afghan troops to preserve independence in their country.”
UPDATE: A spokesman for Romney disputed that Romney was referring to Pawlenty when he made the Jack Welch, business student analogy.